California's 10 Stunning Sculpture Parks You Need To Visit

Photo of Culture Trip
12 October 2016

California is known for its beautiful weather, and one of the greatest benefits to a year round, temperate climate is the ability to enjoy outdoor art all year. California’s garden and park collections are dotted with thousands of statues. They can be found anywhere from university campuses to between skyscrapers. Below is a list of the best sculpture parks in the Golden State and where to find them.

California Scenario | © Jim Sneddon/Flickr

California Scenario

Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi defies categorization with his sculpture garden in Costa Mesa. California Scenario, also referred to by some as ‘Noguchi Garden,’ displays an artistic interpretation of the Californian landscape. The collection of sculptures is located on a partially hidden 1.6 acre patch of land in between two skyscrapers and a parking structure at Henry J. Segerstrom’s South Coast Plaza. Six distinct aspects of California are showcased in California Scenario: ‘Water Source,’ ‘Water Use,’ ‘Desert Land,’ ‘The Forest Walk,’ ‘Land Use,’ and ‘Energy Fountain.’ Each piece is beautiful on its own but together they display a dynamic representation of the Golden State.

Cornerstone Gardens | © Christian/Flickr

Cornerstone Gardens

The Cornerstone Gardens cover nine acres with ever-changing gardens showcasing the work of some of the finest landscape designers and architects. It is inspired by the International Garden Festival, which takes place in Chaumont-sur-Loire, France. Some pieces currently being featured include ‘Big Blue Chair’ by NIP Paysage, ‘Eucalyptus Soliloquy’ by Walter Hood and Alma Dusolier, and ‘Stone’s Throw’ by LAND. In addition to being a lovely place to walk around and enjoy the connection between art and nature, Cornerstone also offers a number of educational seminars focused on garden design and landscape architecture. Due to its constant variation, the Cornerstone Gardens can be visited again and again and continually inspire those who stroll through these gallery-style gardens.

Cantor Arts Center | © WikiCommons

Cantor Arts Center Outdoor Collection

The Cantor Arts Center collection is located at Stanford University. It contains one of the largest collections of Auguste Rodin’s work, which can be viewed on your own or as part of an organized tour. In the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, over 40 stone and woodcarvings that illustrate cultural traditions and creation stories were created onsite and are a splendid addition to the Cantor Arts Center Outdoor Collection. The collection showcases the work of artists from the late 19th century to present day in a variety of styles and media and is open to the public.

The Walking Man by Auguste Rodin | © Photo: Joshua White Courtesy: Hammer Museum

Franklin D Murphy Sculpture Garden

The Franklin D Murphy Sculpture Garden is home to more than 70 international sculptures showcased over a span of five acres. Located on the University of California, Los Angeles campus, the Franklin D Murphy Sculpture Garden is one of the most comprehensive art exhibits of its kind in the country. It features the work of artists such as David Smith, Hans Arp, Auguste Rodin, Deborah Butterfield, and many more. The idea behind the sculpture garden is the belief that art is enjoyed most when it is part of everyday life. The Franklin D Murphy Sculpture Garden makes it easy to do just that by creating an environment designed to encourage people to pause and take notice of the art surrounding them.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art Sculpture Gardens

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art Sculpture Gardens (LACMA) are located in the center of Los Angeles, in a 23-acre park. Visitors entering through the Wilshire entrance will be immediately met by the 202 unique lamp posts that make up Chris Burden’s iconic ‘Urban Light.’ ‘Penetrable’ is another favorite in the sculpture garden– this piece by Jesus Rafael Soto is an interactive work of art constructed using hundreds of plastic hoses. Adults and children alike will have a great time weaving in and out of this sculpture.

LACMA View of Sculpture Garden | © WikiCommons

The Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden

The whimsical Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden is located just outside the de Young Museum, which makes for a stimulating architectural backdrop for many of the sculptures. The garden includes an array of classical sculptures in addition to many modern works of art. One of the most famous pieces here is a sculpture of a giant safety pin. Visitors can wander on and off the paths and observe how the unique collection of sculptures integrates with the surrounding nature to create a scene that is truly magical.

de Young Apple | © WikiCommons

The Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden and the Central Garden

The Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden and the Central Garden contain 28 modern and contemporary pieces from the personal collection of the late film producer Ray Stark and his wife, Fran. The sculptures are placed around the Getty Center in Los Angeles creating an inspiring mix of nature, art and architecture. The garden is composed of three distinct sections: the Sculpture Garden, the Sculpture Terrace and the Lower Terrace Garden. Robert Irwin’s Central Garden is located adjacent to the Lower Terrace Garden. Irwin’s ‘sculpture in the form of a garden’ complements the adjoining Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden exquisitely and it is worth it to visit both.

Getty Center garden designed by Robert Irwin | © The Getty

Oliver Ranch Foundation Sculpture Collection

The Oliver Ranch Foundation Sculpture Collection can be found just 70 miles north of San Francisco. The Oliver Ranch was originally intended to be a sheep farm but now houses 18 unique sculptures. The first sculpture, ‘Shepherd’s Muse’ by Judith Shea, was commissioned in 1985 and since then the Oliver family has been dedicated to supporting local artists. The sculptures at the Oliver Ranch are built on site and cannot be moved. The Olivers did this intentionally so that the focus would be on the art itself rather than its monetary value as it could not be sold. Tours of the Oliver Ranch and performances on the grounds fund the Oliver Ranch Foundation, which helps to support local artists and non-profit organization fundraising efforts.

Ann Hamilton Tower Performance | © Sunshine Urbaniak
Bruce Nauman Untitled | © Sunshine Urbaniak, Courtesy of Oliver Ranch Foundation

di Rosa Preserve

With over 2,300 works, the di Rosa Preserve may be the largest collection of its kind. Given as a gift to the public by art collector, Rene di Rosa, the preserve is one of northern California’s treasures. The one-third mile long sculpture trail located outside of the four galleries on the preserve showcases the large-scale outdoor work of sculptors such as Mildred Howard, Mark di Suvero, Viola Frey and Gordon Heuther. Benbow Bullock’s ‘A Rocket’s Red Glare’ and ‘Terra Incognita’ are the first things that visitors see when they enter this sprawling estate.

di Rosa’s Sculpture Meadow | © di Rosa, Napa

Museum of Latin American Art Sculpture Garden

The sculpture garden at the Museum of Latin American Art is recognized internationally as the most important contemporary Latin American sculpture collection in the United States. The garden contains over 30 sculptures representing almost one artist for every Latin American country. It features abstract and figurative works made from a variety of materials including bronze, metal, stainless steel, polychrome metal and wood. Several artists contributed new pieces that were created specifically for the Museum of Latin American Art’s sculpture garden.

di Rosa’s Sculpture Meadow | © di Rosa, Napa

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