From the rolling hills of the Hudson River Valley to hidden atriums throughout the city, New York features a diversity of terrain upon which to exhibit sculptures by the best contemporary artists from around the world. Take a look at our guide showcasing the top ten sculpture parks and gardens in the state of New York.
Attached to the Museum of Modern Art between 53rd and 54th street and 5th and 6th avenue, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden is a dynamic outdoor space in the heart of Midtown, New York City. The garden, which underwent extensive reconstruction in 2004 as part of a museum-wide restoration project by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, is always buzzing with visitors, yet remains a tranquil oasis amid the bustle of Manhattan’s busiest neighborhood—and one of the city’s most prized cultural institutions. With a large fountain as the focal point of the space, the garden is lined with trees and shrubbery and dotted with works by Picasso, Rodin, Ernst and Miró. Take a leisurely wander to absorb the surroundings, or commune at a table, enjoy a coffee and exchange artistic interpretations.
Encompassing over 60 acres of sprawling farmland, sheltered woods and fertile marshes in the Hudson River Valley, The Fields Sculpture Park showcases approximately 80 works of modern art from internationally acclaimed contemporary artists. The park exhibits both featured and permanent collections throughout the year and is currently presenting its fall exhibition, which opened on 12 October. The Fields is a component of Omi International Arts Center,a non-profit organization that offers residency programs for visual and performing artists. In addition to the park’s large-scale outdoor sculptures, the Charles B. Benenson Visitors Center and Gallery hosts frequent lectures by renowned curators, critics, agents and publishers along with concerts, readings and recitals. The 1,500 square foot space also accommodates paintings, indoor sculptures, video installations and art education programs, as well as a café from which to enjoy the scenery.
Set against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City was an abandoned landfill until 1986 when a group of artists and local community members recognized great potential in an otherwise wasted plot of land. Transformed into a world-renowned outdoor museum overlooking the intersection of the Harlem and East Rivers, Socrates Sculpture Park is the only New York City institution entirely devoted to the exhibition of large-scale sculptures and installations by up-and-coming artists. This non-traditional space fosters an essential relationship between the artists, the work they produce and the public, operating via the philosophy that sharing and circulating art, inspiration and creativity will support and revitalise the community. Socrates Sculpture Park exhibits the work of emerging artists from all over the world while offering internships, apprenticeships, employment opportunities and tours.
One of the oldest and largest sculpture parks in America, Griffis Sculpture Park features 250 works of art distributed on 450 acres of land. The park is split into two subdivisions; the Rohr Hill Road Site, throughout which large-scale sculptures tower over fields and lurk in woodlands, and the Mill Valley Road Site, which offers miles of well-groomed footpaths through varying terrain. Founded by artist Larry Griffis Junior in 1966, the park was created to promote the arts and outdoor exploration through the exhibition of interactive pieces that could be experienced from different perspectives throughout the seasons. Thus Mr. Griffis created a multi-purpose ‘haven for imagination’ that families, art fanatics and hikers could enjoy harmoniously. Griffis Sculpture Park additionally hosts special events such as camp outs, performance pieces, weddings and themed tours as part of a dedicated mission to enrich the community.
Home to four generations of the illustrious Rockefeller family beginning with its patriarch—philanthropist and oil tycoon-turned-wealthiest man in America, John D. Rockefeller — Kykuit estate is an exceptional landmark for its architecture, history, landscaping and 20th century sculpture collection. Now part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Kykuit is a hidden gem located in the picturesque region of the Hudson River Valley. The mansion is equipped with expansive terraced gardens and adorned with former Governor and U.S. Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller’s collection of works by Picasso, Calder and David Smith, to name a few. He also bequeathed a collection of tapestries by Picasso as well as classic automobiles and horse-drawn carriages. The Dutch term for ‘lookout,’ Kykuit overlooks the Hudson River with views of the New York City skyline from the highest point in the hamlet of Pocantico Hills.
Scattered with approximately 40 outdoor works of art by influential contemporary artists such as Mark di Suervo, Tom Otterness and Richard Serra, the Nassau County Museum of Art possesses a rich history. Once belonging to philanthropist William Cullen Bryant, owner of The North American Review, Lloyd Stephens Bryce, and prominent steel tycoon, Henry Clay Frick, the Nassau County Museum of Art sits on 145 acres of protected land. Henry Clay Frick purchased the estate for his son Childs, who shared a passion for botany with his wife. Together they cultivated what is now one of the largest public gardens in the American Northeast. The gardens are dotted with artworks from the museum’s permanent collection as well as extended loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and other respected galleries.
Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was one of the 20th century’s most prolific sculptors and designers. He opened The Noguchi Museum in 1985 to showcase and preserve select pieces he felt best represented him as an innovator, and the museum itself has become one of his greatest legacies. Noguchi designed the museum to posses an open-air sculpture garden as well as enclosed gallery space, providing visitors with the extraordinary opportunity to reflect upon his designs in a manner that he deemed necessary as the artist. The sculpture garden features a permanent collection of Noguchi’s outdoor pieces while the 10-room indoor space presents special exhibitions that provide insight into the breadth of his work. The Noguchi Museum demonstrates a lifetime of sculpture and design that influenced the aesthetic of the 20th century. The sculpture garden is closed through the spring of 2015 for the final phase of an extensive restoration process, however the indoor galleries remain open during normal hours.
Opus 40 Sculpture Park and Museum is named after the colossal on-site monument designed by Harvey Fite, co-founder of the Bard College of Fine Arts Department. The six-and-a-half acre sculpture park took 37 years to complete, during which Fite also built a lodge, studio, blacksmith shop and Quarryman’s Museum, where he exhibited his collection of tools and artefacts. Fite employed the Mayan technique of dry keystone masonry, hand-laying millions of bluestone fragments to create meandering paths, ramps and terraces down into subterranean pathways and up to the piece’s epicentre—a nine-ton, three-story monolith. A magnificent feat of landscape design and sculpture, Opus 40 is the sculpture park’s principal feature amongst Fite’s other works of wood and stone. The park continues to fulfil Fite’s artistic and cultural legacy, offering concerts, theatrical performances, lectures and outreach events.
Set amidst 104 acres of picturesque landscape in Madison County, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park exhibits works by both established and emerging artists across its outdoor space and within an on-site gallery. A setting that is peaceful and natural, thought provoking and reflective, the park serves as inspiration for painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and writers. The resulting works exhibited within the park possess similar qualities and have, on occasion, been accompanied by a diversity of cultural performance pieces. Stone Quarry Hill Art Park maintains a permanent collection and offers special exhibitions, events and community outreach programs in arts education, all part of a concerted effort to engage and inform the public about the benefits of art.
Featuring over 100 thoughtfully situated, monumental sculptures by modern masters and contemporary talents from Alexander Calder to Andy Goldsworthy, Storm King Art Center comprises 500 bucolic acres in the southern part of the Hudson River Valley, only one hour north of New York City. Named after the neighboring Storm King Mountain, the art center began in the Museum Building, a converted Normandy-style residence that continues to showcase the best in contemporary art from Louise Bourgeois to Sol Lewitt. Originally intended to exhibit the work of the Hudson River School, the center was opened to the public in 1960 by founders Ralph E. Ogden and H. Peter Stern. By 1961, Storm King was entirely devoted to contemporary sculpture upon the purchase of 13 pieces by abstract expressionist, David Smith. Five decades later, Storm King continues to evolve its dynamic collection as one of the leading sculpture parks in the country.