Barbican Guide
September 2021

This months cover is taken by Sarah Bak / @mimimimimibak

This months cover is taken by Sarah Bak / @mimimimimibak


‘Art for me is something which teaches human beings how to become more human,’ said Isamu Noguchi, who’s the focus of our new exhibition in the Art Gallery. It’s a neat way of describing how many of us experience art.

With that quote in mind, this month we’re also excited to have a season dedicated to exploring how autistic perspectives can change the language of cinema, and we’re looking ahead to Leytonstone Loves Film. Cultural thinker and researcher Suzanne Alleyne delves into how power affects us in a series of fascinating talks later this month, while psychotherapist Philippa Perry will be addressing your problems in a live agony aunt session.

Violinist Nicola Benedetti tells us about the diversity of her instrument as she prepares for a solo recital, and we can’t wait to see the return of the London Symphony Chorus to our Hall. As schools go back this month, Noguchi’s quote feels particularly apt. What will art teach you this month?

The nation's agony aunt

‘A problem shared is a problem halved’, so the saying goes. It’s more than true for renowned psychotherapist Philippa Perry, who’ll be solving your problems, live, this month.

Philippa Perry

Philippa Perry

Philippa Perry

Psychotherapist, author and newly-appointed agony aunt at the Observer, Philippa Perry says many of us have similar issues, but solving them together is a very healing process. Her talk at the Barbican this month will be like a ‘live agony aunt’ session, so bring the thing that’s been bothering you for ages.

The idea for this ‘in conversation with you’ event came about from Perry’s experience giving talks about her best-selling books all across the country.

‘The bit that’s always the most alive is the Q&A session. So, I’m going to invite questions on subjects such as relationships, parenting, relationships with your parents, how to face death, and the intrapsychic organisation of the self. It’ll be very interactive, so we’ll be doing exercises and other activities. It should be quite stimulating.’

You’ll be able to bring your problems to Perry, either by telling the room or – for those who want to stay anonymous – texting a number.

Describing it as ‘half lecture, half stand-up’, Perry stresses this will be a fun event.

So what sort of topics tend to crop up frequently? ‘A lot of people come with the question that they’re not as good as everyone else. What I tell them is everyone wears a mask, so what we tend to do is judge our own internal turmoil with other people’s external mask.’

Then she starts reeling off a list of hot topics and great life advice: ‘Watch your inner voice and the stories you tell yourself. Compare your inner and outer worlds. How do you have interactions where it’s tricky, such as a complaint. What also comes up a lot is desire – what people really want and the difference between what they need and want.

What’s led Perry to take this route into psychotherapy and solving people’s problems? She’s fascinated by why we think the way we do, and why people behave the way they do. Ultimately, she says, life is a string of conflicts (you want to watch BBC2, your partner wants to watch Netflix), and what’s interesting to her is how to navigate those situations.

And as much as there’s rigorous academic practice at the heart of this event, she has one key thing to say: ‘Make sure you write that it’ll be fun,’ she laughs as she signs off. ‘My number one priority is that it mustn’t be boring.’

Phillippa Perry In Conversation With You takes place on Tuesday 7 September

A creative start to the school year

As the new academic year gets underway again, we’re excited to welcome schools back to our Centre. But did you know that during the pandemic we added lots of fun learning activities to our website?

There’s so much for school-age children to explore, including activities inspired by our major art exhibitions like Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty and Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory.

Find out how nature inspired Ludwig van Beethoven with composer Paul Griffiths, or get creative with activities from our Family Film Clubs – you can find out how to make a forest at home, or animate a dog.

Learn how to make a multi-sensory show at home, or hear how some of today’s young creatives have been inspired by well-known artists through our podcasts.

Find them all at

Our Creative Learning team develops all these activities. And it’s donations by people such as you that can help keep this important work up. If you can, please consider giving generously at

Celebrate your favourite Barbican memories

Our Name A Seat programme is a lovely way to support our artistic and learning work while commemorating a particular moment or as a dedication to someone you’re close to who loves the Barbican. By naming a seat in our Hall, Cinemas or Theatre you will be supporting the artists returning to our stages and helping deliver our Creative Learning programme, which gives young people access to culture and arts. Bring your special memories to life by naming a seat in our venues and support what you love about the Barbican.

The power of power

How does power affect the mind? How is it used to control us? What power do we all hold? A series of talks with cultural thinker and researcher Suzanne Alleyne delves into this fascinating topic.

Can We Talk About Power

Can We Talk About Power

Power is a frequent topic of conversation, but how much do you really know about it? Suzanne Alleyne’s been obsessed with this topic for years, and as we quickly found out when chatting to her, the more you discover, the more you realise how much more there is to uncover.

She’s brought together a surprising group of poets, scientists, writers and artists for a series of online talks which will leave you thinking about how power shapes your everyday interactions. They will explore what is happening in our brains and bodies when we acquire or lose power, and why that matters.

Alleyne says her interest in the subject is intertwined with her lived experience as a Black woman ‘who quite often feels overweight, who doesn’t feel like I fit in, who has mental health that I’m very public about’. After many years travelling the world for her successful career as a brand consultant, she moved into the funded sector but said no matter where she worked, she always felt like she didn’t belong. ‘I feel frustrated with “diversity and inclusion” – this is who I am, but for me, I think that if you can get to the grassroots of the matter, you can get to the root of society’s challenges.’ And that’s what led to her think about power.

After studying for Masters in Arts and Cultural Management, where she learned about the topic from a social perspective, she read an article in The Atlantic magazine that said power damages the brain. ‘And I just thought, “hold on a minute.” And I started to think about the power between you and your work, the power between you and your friends. And I wondered, “Where is it in your brain? Is it in your brain? Is it in your body? Is it a chemical? Do you get addicted to it?”’ As she sought answers, she discovered that many of her questions hadn’t been answered by academics. So she started her research project, The Neurology of Power. And if the topic is setting off as many ideas in your mind as it did ours, it will give you an appreciation for why she’s been so gripped by this issue for the last half-decade.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this could get very complex very quickly, and you’d be right, but that’s not what this series of talks is about. ‘I’m not interested in doing anything that’s highfalutin,’ says Alleyne. ‘It has to have an impact. I want lightbulbs to go off.’

Can We Talk About Power takes place from 27–30 September

A new approach to film?

Can autism create a new film language? We hear from one filmmaker about this bold new ambition, ahead of our season exploring neurodiversity

The Mask

The Mask

‘Typically, autistic representation in film has been very limited to one particular type of autism: usually shy, autistic, white boys, who are very young,’ says filmmaker John James Laidlow, who was late-diagnosed autistic aged 29. ‘They’re usually presented in a very typical, stereotyped way. There’s not a lot of nuance to it. Frequently they’re characters that are presented as lessons or learning for the characters around them. They’re more like plot devices.’

Our season Autism and Cinema: An exploration of neurodiversity will challenge this reductive portrayal. Through films including documentary and animation, genre-twisting fiction, to experimental filmmaking from within the autistic community, it asks how autistic perspectives can change the language of cinema.

Programmed in association with the Centre for Film and Ethics at Queen Mary University of London, it also considers what we can learn about our own understanding of the world by looking at it from an autistic point of view.

Laidlow is among several mainly autistic filmmakers working on Neurocultures, a project to co-create a feature-length film and a multiscreen gallery installation – two works that show how neurodiversity can create a different cinematic language.

‘One of the first things that kind of came up was standard camera movements and continuity editing. Would we match eyelines? Would we focus on the face, or away from the face and on the background details instead?,’ he says. ‘Some of the more abstract ideas are around whether a conventional plot was necessary or conventional character development was as important. We are also exploring ideas of verbal dialogue and whether it’d be more naturalistic and sparse or if it would be very conventional in a cinematic way.’

He says traditional cinema relies heavily on verbal language to advance a story. For autistic people, who may or may not choose not to use verbal language, the question is whether that’s an accurate representation of neurodivergence. ‘And with the camera angles, we want to challenge a typical way of perceiving the world. A lot of discourse around autism suggests that we have heightened senses, but I don’t always find that accurate. I feel like a more accurate representation would be that there’s no filter in our brain. In a neurotypical brain, what isn’t seen as important is filtered out or not given so much prevalence.’

The work Laidlow and his collaborators are doing is pioneering, but there are, of course, examples of films that have shared the autism experience successfully, and we’ll be showing some of them during this season. And then there are the films that aren’t made by autistic people and aren’t necessarily about autism, but they evoke a sense of autistic sensibility. Laidlow cites some David Lynch films that fit this description, such as Mulholland Drive and films by French director Agnès Varda.

Overall, Laidlow sees improvements and reasons to be positive about the representation of autistic people and their experiences. ‘Things are slowly changing. There’s a couple of short Pixar films that come to mind: one is called Loop, about a nonverbal autistic girl at summer camp, and one called Float, which we discuss on our Autism Through Cinema podcast, made by a father whose son is autistic, and him embracing his son’s neurodivergence, rather than being ashamed of it.


Autism and Cinema: An exploration of neurodiversity takes place from 16–28 September
Supported by Wellcome

The poetry of exile

Composer Julian Anderson’s latest work explores the theme of exile. He says it feels particularly apt after the last 18 months

The opening concert of the London Symphony Orchestra’s new season is dedicated to British music. Spanning 100 years, it encompasses Vaughan Williams, Maxwell Davies and Judith Weir, but also brings us right up to date with movements from a brand new choral work: Exiles by Julian Anderson.

With this being the first Barbican concert for the London Symphony Chorus since February last year, Anderson’s theme of ‘exile’ feels especially appropriate. He says the topic is a rich source of inspiration for him, not least because of his personal connection through having lost to the Holocaust all members of his father’s Jewish family who remained in Lithuania. ‘The only family to survive were those who managed to leave much earlier, like my grandparents.’

Julian Anderson © John Batten

Julian Anderson © John Batten

The poetry of exile Composer Julian Anderson’s latest work explores the theme of exile. He says it feels particularly apt after the last 18 months

The uncertainty around choral programming caused by Covid-19 means two movements from Exiles will be performed at the September concert, with a further movement planned for early January 2022. The complete work will be premiered in the coming seasons, when the chorus can be positioned closer to the Orchestra.

‘Le 3 mai’ and ‘Tsiyon’ will be premiered in September. ‘Tsiyon’, for soprano, chorus and orchestra, sets Psalm 137 (‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept’), sung in Hebrew. Anderson, who is Jewish by birth, says he finds Hebrew ‘an exceptionally beautiful language.’ It is combined with poetry about exile by Romanian composer Horatiu Radulescu, who fled the communist regime in the late 1960s.

Meanwhile ‘le 3 mai’, for soprano and orchestra, sets to music an email written during the first Covid lockdown by Moroccan-French composer Ahmed Essyad in which he reflects on the fact that he cannot leave his house, and is sitting at his desk trying to compose. ‘A type of internal exile, one we’ve all experienced over the past year,’ Anderson comments.

In January there’s another chance to hear the two movements premiering in September, and the premiere of ‘La République des Lettres’ for unaccompanied chorus, together in a Suite of three movements. The third movement uses two texts. Choir 1 sings the King James Bible text of Psalm 46 (‘God is our refuge and strength’), which Anderson chose because it felt so appropriate ‘and I was very moved when I saw President Obama recite it on an anniversary of the 9/11 attacks’. Simultaneously Choir 2 sings the names of around 30 people in the arts and humanities who were rescued from the Nazis by the American journalist Varian Fry, including artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst as well as composers Bohuslav Martinu and Betsy Jolas. Fry eventually saved some 3,000 citizens living in Vichy France during the Second World War who were on the Nazi deathlist.

‘The names of some of these will be chanted and sung,’ says Anderson, who’s also Professor of Composition and Composer in Residence at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. ‘It’s the first time I’ve ever set names to music. I found it fascinating not only working with these sounds but also thinking about these incredible people and the contribution they’ve made to world culture.’

Across all these movements, what comes across is a belief in the value of international cultural exchange, the vibrancy that humans gain from sharing our creativity, and the richness that arises when people move to different countries. At a time when xenophobia is on the rise and it can often feel like division is triumphing, Anderson’s work reminds us of the gains from celebrating difference.

London Symphony Orchestra - Season Launch: New Music Britain takes place on Sunday 12 September

Film is a way of building communities

As we prepare to shout ‘action’ for the start of Leytonstone Loves Film, here’s a behind-the-screens look at one of the events taking place.

Not Another FIlm Club: Isaac Gold, Nicole Rego Freita, Allissa Tai and Ademola Bello

Not Another FIlm Club: Isaac Gold, Nicole Rego Freita, Allissa Tai and Ademola Bello

Leytonstone Loves Film, our annual celebration of the movies, is back, championing local filmmakers and organisations in this creative corner of east London. This year the festival will be a hybrid of real life and virtual events – there’s outdoor and indoor screenings, workshops, online events and more.

Among the in-person events is a screening of Nattawut Poonpiriya’s 2017 hit Bad Genius in Leytonstone Library. It’s organised by Not Another Film Club, a group of four alumni from our Young Film Programmers initiative.

Ademola Bello from the group says: ‘This film was one we all found really fun. It’s like Ocean’s 11 but in a school. I wanted to show it because usually there’s a very specific type of non-Western film that makes it into like the canon of “Oh, this is a good non-Hollywood movie”. And Bad Genius is just a fun movie that anybody can enjoy. When it comes to films from foreign markets, people tend to want art house versions because they look down on pop films. But pop films can be really good as well.’ Fellow film club member Isaac Gold explains the group specifically seeks out films and ‘discover something from places you wouldn’t expect to look or wouldn’t normally see films from.’ The foursome also aims to do more than simply screen films at their events, says Nicole Rego Freitas. In the past, they’ve organised talks from experts. ‘For Leytonstone Loves Film, we wanted to do something more fun. So we’ll be doing a quiz after the film, and we’re partnering with local Thai restaurant Singburi to bring food.’

Allissa Tai agrees with Bello: ‘This film did very well in Asia. I think it’s already in the process of getting a Hollywood remake. But we shouldn’t need to remake these films with white Americans, they’re perfectly great as they are. Even though it’s based in Thailand, the subject matter is really relatable.

‘As a group, a major way we think about film is as a medium of building communities. This film can relate across cultures, but we’re adding another dimension by having the communal experience of a quiz and meal in the local community.’ Whether you come for the physical events, or pick the online options, there’s so much to discover at this year’s festival of film.

Leytonstone Loves Film takes place on 15–19 September

Musicians of many styles

The finale of Nicola Benedetti’s solo concert here will be a piece written for her by Wynton Marsalis – who’ll also be performing here this month.

Nicola Benedetti @ Simon Fowler

Nicola Benedetti @ Simon Fowler

A few years back, multi award-winning violinist Nicola Benedetti played a solo mini tour. But she admits she found it ‘quite nervewracking’, so shelved any further thoughts of taking it further. That’s until six months ago, when she performed solo at Snape Maltings in Suffolk. ‘I enjoyed it so much.’ She laughs: ‘I really embraced the freedom of not having to consider anybody else. Just being able to chat to the audience, to take my time playing, and in any style I like.’

Her performance here celebrates the music of dance, roaming over hundreds of years as she showcases the violin’s versatility – and her own extraordinary talent – as she plays works from Baroque refinement by JS Bach to foot-stomping fun with Wynton Marsalis.

‘The music I’ve chosen to play reflects the diversity of what’s been written for the violin, but also the idea of the violin itself as a creation, as a means of communication and reflection,’ she says. ‘The violin has travelled through all of these incredible, tumultuous periods of history whether it’s a time of devotion and piety, or the Baroque period with its explosive burst of different styles of expression in Central Europe, through the impressionistic style of Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata No 5.’

The finale will be Wynton Marsalis’s Fiddle Dance Suite, written especially for her by the composer, trumpeter, and artistic director of the great Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The pair have a longstanding working relationship, and he’s effusive about her talent. ‘With her, the thing I love the most is the levels of seriousness and dedication to music,’ he said in an interview for Decca Classics. ‘That someone will practice seven or eight hours, will study, will read, will learn harmony, will conquer the fears that come with playing in front of people and will be for real all the time – I have so much respect of that level of seriousness.’

‘As a person and a musician he sees 360-degrees all the time,’ says Benedetti. ‘He looks all around the world trying to absorb and glean from traditions and musical expressions from the entire history of written music.’

This month we’re marking Marsalis’s 60th birthday with a special concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing songs hand-picked by their inspirational leader – both his own compositions and work from the artists who’ve influenced him over the course of his illustrious life in music. With their usual international associate residency cancelled due to covid, it’s exciting that they can finally return to us.

‘Wynton has been one of the biggest inspirations and influences in my life,’ says Benedetti. ‘He’s an incredibly multi-layered musician and person. He’s someone who has endless numbers of perspectives that can seem to absolutely contradict one another but that’s where the profundity lies for me. Many people talk about having a diverse group of friends, but when you look closer there’s always something that unites them, whether its politics, income or something else. Wynton is one of the only people I know who I can genuinely say has a diverse group around him. I’ve never known someone to genuinely embrace all shapes and sizes of human beings. He is fascinated in the whole broad, messy picture that is the human race, and that shows in his music.’

Nicola Benedetti performs on Thursday 23 September

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Wynton at 60 takes place on Sunday 26 September

Meet Isamu Noguchi  

Kate Wiener from the Isamu Noguchi Foundation shares a fascinating introduction to the subject of our new major exhibition.

Over the course of his six-decade career, the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) used sculpture as his chosen medium for exploring the world. The diversity of his work, along with his refusal to affiliate with any style, movement, or neat categorisation, makes Noguchi a difficult artist to pin down historically. For him, the value of a sculpture was not determined by the traditionally insular concerns of Western art history, aesthetics, or the art market, but rather sculpture’s use in everyday life. As he explained, ‘Art for me is something which teaches human beings how to become more human.’

Isamu Noguchi in his 10th Street, Long Island City, Queens Studio, 1964. Photograph by Dan Budnik ©2021 The Estate of Dan Budnik. All Rights Reserved

Isamu Noguchi in his 10th Street, Long Island City, Queens Studio, 1964. Photograph by Dan Budnik ©2021 The Estate of Dan Budnik. All Rights Reserved

1904–1928: Beginnings

Noguchi’s sense of self and home was complex and ever-evolving. He was a biracial American, the son of Léonie Gilmour, a white American writer and editor of mostly Irish descent, and Yonejiro Noguchi, an itinerant Japanese poet. Born in Los Angeles, California, on November 17, 1904, he moved to Japan with his mother aged two. In 1918, when he was thirteen, his mother arranged for him to move back to the United States by himself to attend an experimental school in Indiana that she had read about in a magazine. The school closed shortly after Noguchi’s arrival, but he remained in Indiana where he attended public school, living with a local family. Noguchi later suspected that Léonie sent him to the United States to shield him from the racism often directed towards mixed-raced people in Japan. She thought it better for him to ‘become completely American’. Of course, that wasn’t so simple, and experiences of discrimination, difference, and in-betweenness followed Noguchi in the United States. Reflecting on his career at age 82, Noguchi explained that his desire to create sculpture ‘that is actually very useful, and very much a part of people’s lives’ was deeply informed by his ‘own background: the need for belonging... the need to feel that there is someplace on the earth which an artist can affect in such a way that the art in that place makes for a better life and a better possibility of survival’.

Following high school, Noguchi moved to New York, where while taking courses at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School, he learned to sculpt in a traditional academic style and was quickly recognised for his virtuosic skill. In 1927 he worked for Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuşi in Paris, where he gained a seminal introduction to the modernist principles of abstraction and a deep respect for the handling of materials and tools.

1929–1940: Deepening Knowledge

On returning to New York in 1929, Noguchi began sculpting portrait busts for patrons and friends as a way to support himself. ‘Headbusting,’ as he disparagingly called it, was a useful way to ‘make money and meet people’, and this is how he met several future collaborators and friends, including pioneering choreographer Martha Graham and architecttheorist R Buckminster Fuller. In Fuller, Noguchi found a fellow optimist whose humanist vision of a future shaped by technology and innovative design deeply influenced his own evolution as a cross-disciplinary artist-engineer-designer.

In a continued effort to locate sculpture’s broader purpose, Noguchi experimented in industrial design and public sculpture (although he had little use for, or interest in, these labels). His designs for a clock, Measured Time (1932), and the shell of Zenith’s Radio Nurse (1937), the first-ever baby monitor, were both put into production.

In 1935, Noguchi presented several ambitious proposals for public sculptures in a solo exhibition at Marie Harriman Gallery in New York. One of these works was Play Mountain (1935), his radically innovative proposal to transform a full city block into a mountain of sloping and stepped surfaces for sliding, sledding, exploration, and open-ended play. The project was flatly denied by New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.

1941–1948: Becoming

Noguchi’s sense of self, the world, and the role of sculptor was profoundly altered during the Second World War. Amid a growing tide of anti-Japanese discrimination in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Noguchi travelled to Washington to advocate on behalf of Japanese-Americans. As a New Yorker, Noguchi was exempt from Executive Order 9066, which authorised the War Department to designate and remove individuals from exclusion zones and was used to force approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast into internment camps. Nevertheless, he made the astounding decision to voluntarily enter one of these camps in Poston, Arizona. Believing that he could ‘help preserve self-respect and belief in America,’ Noguchi attempted to establish an arts and crafts programme that could be replicated in other camps. He also planned to rebuild Poston with trees, gardens, and centres for art, recreation, and play.

Within months, Noguchi was overcome with a profound sense of disillusionment as he confronted the brutality of incarceration and suspicion from both internees and camp officials, whom he realised had no intention of supporting his plans. He eventually attempted to leave Poston, but to his horror, his request was denied. It would be another three months before he was granted a temporary furlough.

Noguchi was indelibly marked by this experience, which forced him to reckon with his position in the country and world, and his ability to meaningfully effect change as a sculptor.

After his release, Noguchi moved back to New York and established a studio at 33 MacDougal Alley, resolving to ‘be an artist only’. But this did not mean turning his back on the world. Instead, he set out to find new ways to make sense of the human experience in all its complexity and to shape the world he desired. He continued to experiment with different materials and forms, including magnesite and interlocking marble slabs, and began working with manufacturers including Lightolier, Knoll, and Herman Miller to produce lights and furniture, including his now iconic Coffee Table (1944).

At this time, Noguchi was gaining increased recognition, participating in numerous exhibitions in New York. Over the course of his six-decade career, the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) used sculpture as his chosen medium for exploring the world. The diversity of his work, along with his refusal to affiliate with any style, movement, or neat categorisation, makes Noguchi a difficult artist to pin down historically. For him, the value of a sculpture was not determined by the traditionally insular concerns of Western art history, aesthetics, or the art market, but rather sculpture’s use in everyday life. As he explained, ‘Art for me is something which teaches human beings how to become more human.’

1949–1957: Seeking

Despite his growing success at the end of the 1940s, Noguchi still sought ‘some larger, more noble, and more essentially sculptural purpose to sculpture’. In 1949, he applied for a fellowship from the Bollingen Foundation to travel the world and write a book on ‘the environment of leisure, its meaning, its use, and its relationship to society’. By this he meant civic, social, and religious spaces used across time and cultures for gathering, ceremony, and entertainment. Over the next six years, Noguchi travelled Europe and Asia searching for different ‘use[s] of sculpture in a spatial, cosmic sense’. Although Noguchi never actually wrote the proposed book, his journeys around the world profoundly impacted his life and work. During his travels, Noguchi spent a great deal of time in Japan, returning in 1950 for the first time in nearly two decades. For a time, he lived in Kita Kamakura with Yoshiko “Shirley” Yamaguchi, a Japanese film actress, whom he met in New York. The two quickly married although ultimately divorced in 1957 after a period of separation. Noguchi became particularly invested in Japanese craft traditions at this time: he created his own large body of stoneware sculptures, many inspired by Haniwa, ancient Japanese burial objects, and first developed his nowrenowned Akari light sculptures, his modern take on traditional chochin paper lanterns. Noguchi considered Akari to be “a true development in an old tradition,” and over the course of his life developed over 200 different models of these electrically illuminated light sculptures. For Noguchi, reinventing tradition was a way of both honoring and transcending a specific history, relating instead to something universal and shared. This vision and his growing identification as a “world citizen” influenced his 1955 garden design for the United Nations’ UNESCO campus in Paris.

Isamu Noguchi, My Arizona, 1943. Fiberglass, Plexiglas, 46.4 x 46.4 x 11.7 cm Photograph by Kevin Noble ©INFGM / ARS – DACS

Isamu Noguchi, My Arizona, 1943. Fiberglass, Plexiglas, 46.4 x 46.4 x 11.7 cm Photograph by Kevin Noble ©INFGM / ARS – DACS

1958–1979: Ways of Discovery

In 1958 Noguchi returned to New York and a few years later established a studio in an old factory in Long Island City, Queens. He quickly became involved in a series of large-scale public projects and more serious collaborations with architects. Throughout the 60s and 70s, despite continually pushing the limits of feasibility, Noguchi was able to successfully complete more than 20 public works around the world, including gardens, fountains, playgrounds, and plazas.

In 1971, to manage his numerous public commissions, Noguchi established Noguchi Fountain and Plaza, Inc. with the architectengineer Shoji Sadao, an invaluable collaborator who helped realise some of Noguchi’s most technologically ambitious projects (as well as those of their mutual friend Buckminster Fuller). Among these projects, was ‘the total environment of leisure’ that he designed for Philip A Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan (1971–1979), an eight-acre public space overlooking the Detroit River that includes a sunken amphitheatre, stepped seating, and a central fountain. Noguchi described the plaza, which remains a muchused civic centre, as a ‘horizon for people’. During this period, Noguchi also continued his tireless exploration of different materials, experimenting with folded sheet-metal, balsa wood, and bronze. Stone, in particular, became a primary medium for Noguchi, for whom it was expressive of both the past and the future: “a congealment of time.” In order to create his monumental granite sculpture Black Sun (1969), a public commision for the city of Seattle, WA, Noguchi sought the help of the Japanese stone-carver Masatoshi Izumi, who had a studio in Mure on the Japanese island of Shikoku and would become an important collaborator. Noguchi returned to Mure often, and in the early 1970s established a second home there where he continued to live and work part-time for the rest of his life. In subsequent years, Noguchi would become increasingly invested in carving hard Japanese granite and basalt, a practice he regarded as a dialogue with nature and time.

Isamu Noguchi, Trinity (Triple), 1945 (fabricated 1988) Bronze plate, 141.6 x 56.5 x 49.5 cm. Photograph by Kevin Noble ©INFGM / ARS – DACS

Isamu Noguchi, Trinity (Triple), 1945 (fabricated 1988) Bronze plate, 141.6 x 56.5 x 49.5 cm. Photograph by Kevin Noble ©INFGM / ARS – DACS

1980–1988: This Earth, This Passage

In his later years, Noguchi was thinking deeply about the full scope of his work and his legacy. Largely discontent with the model of traditional museums and the demands of the marketdriven art world, he decided to establish his own museum near his studio and home in Long Island City. The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum officially opened to the public in 1985. Noguchi conceived of it as a repository of his work and record of his thinking, but also as a living resource: a shared space for visitors to come together, reflect, and learn. In 1986, Noguchi presented Isamu Noguchi: What is Sculpture? in the US pavilion at the 42nd Venice Biennale. Although memories of his incarceration by the United States government during the war left Noguchi reluctant to accept this prestigious invitation to represent America, he ultimately chose to go through with the exhibition and make it his own. In the spring of 1988, the last year of his life, Noguchi conceived of his final and most ambitious playground design: Moerenuma Park (1988–2000), a 454-acre park on a reclaimed municipal dump outside Sapporo, Japan, designed to include play sculptures, fields, and fountains, and a revised version of his firstever play concept – the monumental stepped pyramid he called Play Mountain (1933). That winter, Noguchi caught pneumonia and died on December 30, after succumbing to heart failure. Although he did not live to see the completion of Moerenuma park, this final work encapsulates Noguchi’s lifetime commitment to creating socially meaningful sculpture, and to sculpting the world he wished to inhabit.

Noguchi takes place from 30 September–9 January
This exhibition is generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art

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‘This show is a fizzy glass of champagne’

Tony Award winning actor Sutton Foster says she’s excited to be back on stage in classic musical Anything Goes – but she’s nothing like her character.

Sutton Foster in Anything Goes © Tristram Kenton

Sutton Foster in Anything Goes © Tristram Kenton

Stepping back into the shoes of Reno Sweeney, the role that saw her win a Tony Award on Broadway, is ‘a dream come true’, says Sutton Foster.

Anything Goes was such a special show and experience for me,’ she says. ‘I never thought I would get the opportunity to play Reno again. The chance I’ve been given to revisit her ten years later, when so much in my life has changed, is an opportunity to explore the character afresh.’

Foster is aboard the SS American for Cole Porter’s classic musical alongside Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot, for a night of escapism and comedy as a former nightclub singer and second rate conman try to help their friend find true love.

Yet the sassy star of this much-loved comedy is nothing like the American actor who will be playing her. ‘Reno is very much an extrovert whereas I am introvert,’ says Foster. ‘Reno is much more comfortable in a fabulous gown and I’m often in sweatpants. What I do think we share is a loyalty to our friends. Robert Lindsay says I have a naughty twinkle in my eye. Ha! That I share with Reno.’

Foster says she particularly loves Porter’s score and the ‘unbelievable, witty, smart lyrics’.

‘I think I forgot how funny and farcical this show is. It also feels like such an ensemble show. I love that it takes place in the 30s where everyone wears beautiful clothes and hats – the fashion, the detail, the glamour that we don’t really have right now. The show celebrates the glamorous. It’s a fizzy glass of champagne. I’m not this person at all, so I love being able to step into this world for two and a half hours every night.’

Anything Goes continues until Sunday 31 October

My Barbican: Xavier Velastín

The sound artist, one of the creators of our Conservatory audio trail, shares the places that inspired him in the Conservatory.

The Pond Near the Weeping Fig

A little bridge over a small pond with a surprisingly loud irrigation system, a sudden and strong hit of wet bark that hits the memory centres of my brain and takes me back to every damp forest I’ve ever been, having so many different types of individual plants in a small space – this was the perfect inspiration for one of our Audio Trail stops, ‘The Magic Forest Floor’. To me and the writer, Emma Hayes, this area spoke to us of the loudness of the multiplicity of organisms that live in the forest floor – an infinite matrix of life that parallels the city around us.

The Well

In the middle of the Conservatory, some sort of generator or electrical system creates a hum that resonates throughout the space. It’s a stark reminder of how much it asks you to become part of its reality – either by suspending your disbelief entirely and blocking out the unnatural, or by existing with the dissonance of overlapping organic and mechanical life. Sound recordings of the Conservatory are featured throughout the whole Audio Trail, the hum in the background never ceasing.

The Walkway Near The Arid House

Sonically, this is perhaps the most complex part of the Conservatory – electrical humming, people talking and walking, irrigation systems pouring, street noises from outside – it all gets blended together in the echoey glass and metal reverberations of the upper level. It’s great to just stand and move slowly around, listening and trying to unpack the rich texture of sound around you. From the entrance you can look down and see the slow dance of the terrapins.

The Fish Pond

The last stop on the audio trail is a brilliant text spoken by writer Emma Hayes that invites the listener to slow down, listen and reflect – something that comes naturally looking at the almost ritualistic movement of the koi carp in the pond. To complement this, I created a soundtrack with soft lilting melodies and a soundscape from the different water sources in the Conservatory.

The Well

The Well

The Pond Near the Weeping Fig

The Pond Near the Weeping Fig

The Walkway Near The Arid House

The Walkway Near The Arid House

The Fish Pond

The Fish Pond

Becky Black / @beckycblack

Becky Black / @beckycblack

New perspectives

The warm tones of the sunshine on the dimpled pillars caught the eye of Becky Black (@beckycblack), who took this gorgeous photo.

‘I love the way the light hits the columns in this photo, framing the Guildhall School student walking past with their cello,’ she says.

We love seeing your photos of the Barbican. Tag yours using #MyBarbican and we might use it in a future edition.

Reflecting on a superb photo

Barbican Members can get access to a self-guided architecture photography walk around the Barbican estate, created with photographer Anthony Palmer. Over the last few months we asked people to share their photos with us, and we’ve selected our favourite from all the submissions we had.

This shot, by Konrad von Szczepanski (@konradjvs), is the winner of the competition.

If you’d like to access exclusive events and activities such as this, become a Member. Find out more at

Konrad von Szczepanski / @konradjvs

Konrad von Szczepanski / @konradjvs

Iconic design for your home

Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi was one of the most experimental and pioneering artists of the 20th century. Our shop selection includes some of the exciting examples of his work for you to take home.

Noguchi 3A Table Akari Lamp

With the warm glow of light cast through handmade paper on a bamboo frame, Isamu Noguchi used traditional Japanese materials to bring modern design to the home. Like the beauty of falling leaves and the cherry blossom, Noguchi wrote, Akari are ‘poetic, ephemeral, and tentative’.

FERM LIVING Large Bendum Vase

Cut in Brown Bidasar marble, the Bendum series expresses the meeting of nature and culture in a soft geometric design.

Noguchi Tote Bag

Our official Barbican tote bag features Noguchi’s ‘Worksheet for Sculpture’, evidencing his masterwork with shape and shadow.

Noguchi 3A Table Akari Lamp

Noguchi 3A Table Akari Lamp

FERM LIVING Large Bendum Vase

FERM LIVING Large Bendum Vase

Noguchi Tote Bag

Noguchi Tote Bag

With thanks

The City of London Corporation,
founder and principal funder

Centre Partner
Christie Digital

Major Supporters
Arts Council England
Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation
Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement
The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Terra Foundation for American Art
SHM Foundation

Corporate Supporters
Aberdeen Standard Investments
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Bank of America
Bottega Veneta
Derwent London
DLA Piper
Howden M&A Limited
Leigh Day
Linklaters LLP
Morrison & Foerster
Natrium Capital Limited
Pinsent Masons
SEC Newgate UK
Slaughter and May
Taittinger Champagne

Trusts & Grantmakers
Andor Charitable Trust
Art Fund
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch)
Cockayne – Grants for the Arts
The London Community Foundation
Creative Europe Programme for the European Union
Edge Foundation
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Europa Cinema
Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)
The Henry Moore Foundation
The Mactaggart Third Fund
The Nugee Foundation
Tom ap Rhys Pryce Memorial Trust

We also want to thank Barbican Patrons, donors to Name a Seat, Members, and everyone who has supported the Barbican by making a donation.

Barbican Cinema has been supported by the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England which is administered by the BFI, as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund supporting arts and cultural organisations in England affected by the impact of COVID-19.

To find out more, visit or email [email protected]

The Barbican Centre Trust, registered charity no. 294282