Melania Trump Just Had This ‘Humble’ Isamu Noguchi Sculpture Installed at the White House Rose Garden

The sculpture is the first work by an Asian American artist to join the national collection.

First Lady Melania Trump unveils Isamu Noguchi's sculpture at the White House on Friday, November 20. Courtesy of FLOTUS Twitter.

The White House has made a rare and historic art acquisition by adding Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture Floor Frame (1962) to the Rose Garden. The work becomes the first by an Asian American artist to enter the national collection.

Curators of the White House Collection suggested Noguchi’s sculpture, and with the approval of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, it was acquired for $125,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in March by the White House’s Collection. First Lady Melania Trump announced the acquisition on Friday.

The abstract bronze piece has been installed on the Rose Garden’s white concrete floor, with one larger beam diving into the ground and jutting out at an angle, while a smaller piece seemingly rises up again. The First Lady posted pictures of the ribbon-cutting ceremony to her official Twitter account with a caption reading: “The art piece is humble in scale, complements the authority of the Oval Office, & represents the important contributions of Asian American artists.”

Thousands of retweets and replies came flooding in, with many critical of the photo op: “Show us Biden’s inauguration stage as it’s being built!!” one user wrote, with another adding “now time for a moving van to leave the White House.” A user named Paul Rosenberger wrote, “Just like everything else in the White House right now… IT’S BROKEN.”

Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump has not made art and culture a priority in his administration or in the White House itself. While in office, Michelle Obama acquired an Alma Thomas painting, the first work by a Black female artist to enter the collection. Before her, Hillary Clinton selected a work by Georgia O’Keeffe to hang in the White House Green Room. Donald Trump requested a painting by Vincent Van Gogh to join the White House, but was rejected by the Guggenheim’s former chief curator Nancy Spector, who suggested he accept Maurizio Cattelan’s  gold toilet instead.

Isamu Noguchi's <i>Floor Frame</i> (1962), is displayed at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 21, 2020. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Isamu Noguchi’s Floor Frame (1962), is displayed at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 21, 2020. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

Brett Littman, director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, told the New York Times that while bipartisan rancor made the timing unfortunate—Trump has still not acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory—”the key for us is that this will be on display in perpetuity at the White House. Administrations come and go, but artwork remains.”


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