Experience-Changing landscapes at America’s most stunning outdoor sculpture gardens
By Kristan Schiller
Widely thought to have originated with the Sphinx in Egypt, sculpture gardens evolved into botanical displays during the Roman Empire and then into 17th-Century traditional English gardens, which often featured stone statues amidst a flourishing of flowers and trees. Today, we have sculpture gardens across the United States with works by everyone from Matisse and Picasso to regional artists—some parks are even clever reinventions of industrial land. Stylish and sophisticated like your Malibu, these beautiful artworks and designs make a statement in the great outdoors.
Olympic Sculpture Park
The new waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park has transformed a nine-acre industrial site into a lush, colorful space for art. The park gives Seattle residents and people just passing through the chance to view an array of sculpture in an outdoor setting while enjoying outstanding views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Though you may be tempted to drive off into the mountains, the art’s the thing here. Admission is free.
Lynden Sculpture Garden
In May 2010, after extensive renovations on the house and grounds, the estate of Harry Lynde Bradley and Margaret Blakney Bradley opened to the public; the estate, known as the Lynden Sculpture Garden, includes an impressive 40-acre outdoor sculpture park. Lynden is home to a collection of more than 50 sculptures collected by Margaret Bradley between 1962 and 1978, including works by Barbara Heapworth, Henry Moore, Tony Smith and Mark di Suvero that are spread across a vast swath of park, lake and woodland. Admission is $9; $7 for seniors, students and children.
Nasher Sculpture Center
Having opened a decade ago, the Nasher Sculpture Center has acquired an international reputation as a hub for top-notch modern and contemporary sculpture. Displaying works by Matisse, Picasso and Claes Oldenburg, among others, Nasher is set on 2.4 lush green acres next to the Renzo Piano-designed Dallas Museum of Art in the center of the Dallas Arts District in downtown Dallas. The garden is home to more than 170 trees, including cedar elm, oak, crepe myrtle, weeping willow and magnolia, together with stone pathways, pools and fountains. Special events are often held in the garden, including “First Saturdays” for children and families, al fresco dining, bands and outdoor film screenings. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and military, $5 for students and free for children 12 and under.
St. Louis, MO
This 2.9-acre sculpture garden occupying two city blocks in downtown St. Louis offers a mix of highbrow art, serene spaces and spraying fountains in which visitors can cool off in summertime. Open since 2009, the park has two dozen sculptures which range in style and size: There’s a giant bronze head resting on its side by Igor Mitoraj as well as animated figures walking across electronic screens by Julian Opie. There is no admission for visitors to Citygarden, which is owned by the city of St. Louis and is located close to Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium.
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Kristan Schiller is a New York-based travel writer and blogger whose articles have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s, as well as on Forbestraveler.com and Salon.com.