The Owners of Noguchi Sculpture “My Arizona” Test the Artist’s Prophecy in an October Auction at Rago - Iconic Works Held Privately Since 1978

  • LAMBERTVILLE, New Jersey
  • /
  • September 25, 2013

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Isamu Noguchi, Important sculpture, "My Arizona", New York, 1943, magnesite/acrylic, unmarked, 5” x 18” sq. Estimate: $300,000-$500,000.
Rago Arts and Auction Center



Lambertville, NJ:  "These will bring you good luck someday."

These were the words spoken by the legendary artist/designer/architect Isamu Noguchi in 1978 when he presented two versions of his celebrated sculpture "My Arizona" to Gary Zeller, a young scientist and conservator.


His prophecy will be tested when Rago brings both pieces to market on October 27, 2013 at noon in its 20th/21st C. Design auction.


In May of 1942, Isamu Noguchi voluntarily entered the Poston Relocation Center for “people of Japanese parentage” near Parker, Arizona to oversee a craft program for those interned.


Noguchi’s 1943 sculpture “My Arizona” is his artistic response to that experience. The exposed physical landscape of the camp is abstracted. A fluorescent pink Plexiglas plane reflects hotly down from its conical rise like the desert sun Noguchi came to hate. The work’s title references the camp’s location as well as the U.S.S. Arizona, bombed and sunk in Pearl Harbor where it remains submerged with its crew entombed within. Noguchi’s addition of the possessive pronoun "my" to the title is a heartbreaker: the edges of his sculpture mark the walls of the camp. For those imprisoned, there is nothing beyond.  


Noguchi formed “My Arizona” using a malleable material called magnesite. Many decades later, he found an efflorescence of mineral deposits had developed on its surface, marring the work’s appearance. In 1977 he hired Gary Zeller to conserve “My Arizona” and commissioned him to mold and cast new versions of the sculpture   using alternate materials.

Isamu Noguchi, Important sculpture, "My Arizona", New York, 1977, hydrostone (gypsum and calcium carbonate), polymer cement, hardened polymer, acrylic, signed IN 1977, 5” x 18” sq. Estimate: $150,000-$200,000.
Rago Arts and Auction Center


Zeller and Noguchi worked together on and off for the better part of a year. Zeller halted and removed the efflorescence, then formulated a pigmented lacquer that the sculptor applied by hand. Zeller then created a silicone mold under the artist’s direction, casting one version in fiberglass and two others using a gypsum-cement compound known as hydrostone.


Noguchi left Zeller's laboratory/workshop in 1978, taking the mold, the fiberglass version and one of the two hydrostone versions. He gifted the magnesite original and second hydrostone version to Zeller with the parting prophecy of good fortune to come.


Since then, the hydrostone version Noguchi took from Zeller’s workshop has vanished, as has the mold. The fiberglass version of "My Arizona" has joined the collection of the Noguchi Foundation as number 192 in the catalogue raisonné. The 1943 magnesite original and the second hydrostone version are now both at Rago awaiting auction.


The Foundation, which no longer authenticates, has not included either of the Zeller’s sculptures in the catalogue raisonné. It references and acknowledges the original in its cataloguing of the fiberglass version, which itself has been authenticated through first-hand association with the artist.


“Gary Zeller worked with Isamu Noguchi on conserving the original “My Arizona” and was commissioned to make a mold and duplicate it," says David Rago. “Photographs show Noguchi and Zeller at work, with Noguchi holding the hydrostone version and others. Simply put, I am very proud to be representing both these original works in my auction.”


For more information on "My Arizona" please contact David Rago.

© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures. © 2013 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


In this 1947 photograph by Kertész, Noguchi’s 1943 “My Arizona” can be seen on a wall in his MacDougal Alley studio. (Note the work hanging to its left. This magnesite maquette or one just like it, thought to be a model for a playground, sold at Rago in October of 2005 for $216,000 and is now number 192.01 in the catalogue raisonné  [research pending].)

Auction Dates/Times


- Early 20th C. Design Auction: Saturday, October 26 at 11 a.m.

- Modern Studio Ceramics/Glass Auction: Saturday, October 26 (immediately following Early 20th C.)

- 20th/21st C. Design Auction: Sunday, October 27 at 11 a.m.


Auction Exhibition/Preview

- Saturday, October 19 – Thursday, October 24, 12-5 p.m., Friday, October 25, 12-7 p.m., and by appointment. Doors open on Auction days at 9 a.m.

- Open House/Lecture, Andrew Raimist, “Isamu Noguchi and ‘My Arizona’”, Thursday, October 24. Reception at 5 p.m., lecture at 6 p.m. Please R.S.V.P. to or 609-397-9374 ext. 119.

- Rago is located midway between New York City and Philadelphia. Directions online at



- View complete catalogues with color images online at as of October 11.

- Catalogues are available for $20, available by calling 609.397.9374 or emailing a request to  


Auction Contact Information

- 609-397-9374 or



High resolution images available on request.


About Gary Zeller/Zeller International

Zeller International, co-founded by Gary Zeller and Joyce Spector, has provided specialty chemical products and engineering solutions across multiple industries since 1964. Much of its work has been in the fields of art and entertainment. Among its clients: Buckminster Fuller, Phillip Johnson, Frank Stella, Duane Hanson, the Museum of Natural History (New York), Universal Studios, Cirque de Soleil, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Smithsonian Museum. In April 1989 Mr. Zeller received an Academy Award for Scientific Achievement.


About Rago Arts and Auction Center

Rago is a leading U.S. auction house with $28 million in sales in 2012. We serve thousands of sellers and buyers internationally with a singular blend of global reach and personal service. Rago holds auctions of 20th/21st c. design, fine art, decorative arts, furnishings, jewelry, militaria, coins and currency, Asian, historic ephemera, and ethnographic property.  A world-class venue through which to buy and sell, it offers valuations for personal property (from a single piece to collections and estates), appraisals, estate services, exhibitions and lectures in house and online. Rago is based in New Jersey, midway between Philadelphia and New York City.



Miriam Tucker
Rago Arts and Auction Center

Rago Arts and Auction Center
333 N. Main Street
Lambertville, New Jersey

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