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How $500 Lamps Are Keeping a New York Museum Afloat During Covid

Demand from home-bound buyers for Akari lanterns jumped during Covid, helping the Noguchi museum keep all its staff and preserve salaries.

Isamu Noguchi with Akari lights sculptures, 1968.
Isamu Noguchi with Akari lights sculptures, 1968.Source: The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, NY/Artists Rights Society (ARS)

The warm light glows through handmade washi paper, the ephemeral shapes held just so by bamboo.

Almost 70 years after the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi designed the first of his iconic Akari light sculptures, the lamps have become the unexpected savior of a small museum in Queens that bears his name.