Water flows over this stone fountain almost invisibly. The fountain, created especially for this space, is one of the last sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, the American-born sculptor and designer. Noguchi made the work in Japan: the light stones in the fountain bed come from the Isuzu River—which flows near Ise Shrine, one of the most sacred Shinto sites—while the dark basalt stone that forms the fountain itself is also from Japan.

The fountain and its setting form an abstract garden that evokes the close relationship between interior and exterior space. The wood screen (whose construction was approved by Noguchi) is an architectural convention dating back to the seventeenth century, whereby an interior view is focused on a specific frame of a garden. In Japan, gardens often contain a stone basin to collect water, conveyed through a bamboo pipe from a nearby mountain stream. But here, the water emerges from the depths of the rock, uniting the disparate elements of water and stone.


  • Title: Water Stone
  • Creator: Isamu Noguchi
  • Creator Lifespan: 1904/1988
  • Creator Nationality: American
  • Creator Death Place: New York
  • Creator Birth Place: Los Angeles, California
  • Date Created: 1986
  • Rights: © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Medium: Basalt; on a foundation bed of naturally rounded granite stones
  • Dimensions: H. 25 in. (63.6 cm); W. 42 3/4 in. (108.6 cm); Wt. 1 ton
  • Culture: Japan/United States
  • Credit Line: Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1987
  • Classification: Sculpture
  • Accession Number: 1987.222

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