Andrew LaSane is a freelance writer from South Carolina who currently resides in Brooklyn. He spends most of his life connected to the grid, obsessing over and customizing sneakers, and trying to relive the ’90s. Summer is here, which means that now is the perfect time to view great outdoor art. Sculpture gardens provide the museum experience without walls, giving art lovers the opportunity to see collections of large-scale works while also exploring acres of open land. From the legendary Storm King Art Center in upstate New York to the prairie landscape of Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park in Illinois, we compiled this handy guide to the best bronze sculpture parks in America to help you plan your next art-fueled road trip.
Storm King Art Center
Location: New Windsor, N.Y.
The Storm King Art Center has been considered one of the best sculpture gardens in the world for a long time, and for good reason. Situated in the beautiful Hudson River Valley, the 500-acre art mecca has over 100 sculptures in its collection, with works by famous artists including Alexander Calder, Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein, and several others.
DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Location: Lincoln, Mass.
Featuring a nice blend of modern and contemporary sculptures, DeCordova is smaller than a lot of major sculpture gardens with its modest 30 acres, but it is the largest of its kind in New England. The great thing about its size is that it won’t take as long to see the 60 or so sculptures in the collection. Leave Boston and head northwest for 20 miles and you’ll find yourself in a sea of bronze, marble, steel, granite, and wood.
The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NoMA
Location: New Orleans
The relatively young sculpture garden (founded in 2003) consists of 64 sculptures tucked in between the trees on five acres near the New Orleans Museum of Art. Works in the collection include Robert Indiana’s Love (Red Blue), Isamu Noguchi’s Rain Mountain, and Renoir’s Venus Victorius, to name a few. The Besthoff’s were once named by Arts & Antiques magazine as one of the top 100 art collectors in the country, and Louisiana is still one of the top 10 places to visit according to TripAdvisor, so combine the two and you have a great trip waiting to happen.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Free and open to the public year-round, the Olympic Sculpture Park was built in 2007 right on the waterfront by the Seattle Art Museum. The park is industrial unlike others on the list. It exists within sprawling natural landscapes, which gives it a totally different vibe. There are green spaces throughout, and the backdrop of the Puget Sound is something that you can’t get in a forest or prairie.
The Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden at The Getty
Location: Los Angeles
The art inside the J. Paul Getty Museum is very much worth the trip, but the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden outside is really where you want to be. Donated by the late film director and his wife, the 28-piece collection flows with the environment and architecture of the museum. The sculptures sit in designated terraces, as well as public spaces and open gardens.
Laumeier Sculpture Park
Location: St. Louis
Over 300,000 people visit the 105-acre Laumeier Sculpture Park every year, and you should be one of them. Works by Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, Alexander Lieberman, and dozens of others welcome you to the site where you can also attend concerts, view the changing exhibitions, and participate in the other regularly scheduled events like picnics, tours, and classes.
Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden
Location: Los Angeles
One of the best outdoor art destinations in Southern California is also one of the best sculpture gardens in the entire country. Right on the campus of UCLA, the garden includes over 70 works by sculptors including Rodin, Matisse, Calder, and many others. Take a tour, wander the grounds, or grab a map and lead yourself on a trip around the school before heading into the Hammer Museum to see even more art.
Ellen Clark Sculpture Park
Location: St. Louis
The sculpture park at Saint Louis University has been named one of the best in the world, and it is also one of the most unique because it doubles as a dog park. The Modernist works featured here were created by the late Brother Mel Meyer and they exist as both art and outdoor furniture for people to enjoy while their pets run free.
Socrates Sculpture Park
Location: Long Island City, N.Y.
Founded in 1986, Socrates Sculpture Park is the largest outdoor exhibition space of its kind in New York City. The park’s calendar is also packed with interesting installations and other great programming, including movie nights, concerts, parades, and other performances. Since 1998, it has operated as a permanent city park, so visitors can expect this gem and all that it has to offer to be around for a long time.