C Cleveland - Portal Sculpture

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The city of Cleveland has over 200 outdoor sculptures and monuments in the Greater Cleveland area, within Cuyahoga County alone. Today we'll focus on Isamu Noguchi's "Portal", which sits outside of the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland. The Justice Center has been my home for the past week and each day, I was able to gaze upon the sculpture when I realized that I don't really know the history of it.
Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American, is known as one of the twentieth century's most important and critically acclaimed sculptors.
He created gardens, ceramics, set designs, sculptures and even furniture. The Noguchi coffee table below was manufactured by Herman Miller in 1948 and is still in production today.
Noguchi had a strong belief in the social significance sculpture. The first sculpture that brought him recognition was a relief mural in stainless steel at the Associated Press building in Rockefeller Center, New York City. It symbolized the freedom of the press. (1940)

He was commissioned for Cleveland's Portal in 1976. It stands 36' high at its tallest and is painted steel.
Much like the Free stamp I've highlighted before, many don't "get" minimalist modern sculpture and at the time of the installation, many art critics weren't big fans, either. It was donated by the Gund Foundation and I think it gave people some solace knowing that their tax dollars didn't pay for this.
The modern Justice Center replaced the old courthouse in the background below and brought the Cleveland Police Headquarters Building, the Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Municipal Courts Tower and the Correction Center all to one location.
As I've mentioned before, I love public works because everyone can decide for themselves what they see. My interpretation is the intertwining of the departments and the strength of those departments as evidenced in the steel.


Noguchi actually named a number of his abstract sculptures Portal and they appear to change shape depending on the viewing angle. 

What do you see?


  1. I've passed by that sculpture in Cleveland more than once, and used to work around the corner from the Rock Center number, without ever realizing that either was one of his! The next time you're in NYC, you must visit the Noguchi museum in Queens.

    1. I know! I can't believe I never knew, either. I was looking at the museum website today. I didn't even look to see where it was. I'll put it on the proverbial "bucket list".

  2. Chrissy, what a fascinating post!!!!

    "The first sculpture that brought him recognition was a relief mural in stainless steel at the Associated Press building in Rockefeller Center, New York City."

    OMG...I've seen that so many times while I was living and visiting in NYC, yet had no idea who created that mural. Now I know!

    Personally, I love his sense of minimalism because I like things minimalistic. That's why I loved living in Japan, everything there is designed so streamline, clean, and minimal. And being a Japanese-American, I bet that's where he got his sense of style.

    Great post, girl! Thanks a bunch for sharing!


    1. Thanks! That's so wild that you've seen the mural I referenced! I would love to see one of his fountains in person. They're just amazing.

  3. Looks like something that was built too light and broken on my machinery and I'll have to fix it to keep going...

    1. See? We all interpret things our own way. :-)

  4. Kinda reminds me of navigating the government, how you have to twist and turn and then you end up back where you started.


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