From the Hudson River Valley to atriums in Manhattan, there’s a wealth of diverse spaces in New York state where contemporary artists from around the world can exhibit their work. Here’s our pick of the ones you should visit.
Attached to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) between 53rd and 54th Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden is a dynamic outdoor space in the heart of Midtown, New York City. The garden underwent extensive reconstruction in 2004 as part of a museum-wide restoration project by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, and is always buzzing with visitors, yet remains a tranquil oasis amid the bustle of Manhattan’s busiest neighborhood.
One of most prized cultural institutions in the city, it has a large fountain as its focal point, with works by Picasso, Rodin, Giacometti and Matisse among many others dotted around. Take a leisurely wander or commune at a table, enjoy a coffee and exchange artistic interpretations.
More than 120 acres (49ha) of sprawling farmland, sheltered woods and fertile marshes in the Hudson River Valley make up the Sculpture and Architecture Park, which showcases 60 works of modern art from internationally acclaimed contemporary artists. The park, which displays featured and permanent collections throughout the year, is a component of Art Omi, a non-profit organization that offers residency programs for visual and performing artists.
In addition to the large-scale outdoor sculptures, the Charles B Benenson Center hosts frequent lectures by renowned curators, critics, agents and publishers, along with concerts, readings and recitals. It also accommodates paintings, indoor sculptures, video installations and art education programs, as well as a cafe where you can relax and 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 confluence of the Harlem and East Rivers, Socrates Sculpture Park is a New York City public park entirely devoted to the exhibition of large-scale sculptures and installations by up-and-coming artists.
This untraditional space fosters an essential relationship between the artists, the work they produce and the public, adopting a philosophy that sharing and circulating art, inspiration and creativity will support and revitalize the community. Socrates Sculpture Park exhibits the work of emerging artists from all over the world while offering internships, apprenticeships, employment opportunities and tours.
Among the oldest and largest sculpture parks in America, Griffis Sculpture Park features more than 250 works of art on 450 acres (182ha) of land. The park is split into two: the Rohr Hill Road Site, where large-scale sculptures tower over fields or lurk in the woodlands, and the Mill Valley Road Site, which offers miles of well-groomed footpaths through varying terrain. The artist Larry Griffis Jr founded the park in 1966 to promote the arts and outdoor exploration by exhibiting interactive pieces that could be experienced from different perspectives throughout the seasons – a multipurpose “haven for imagination” that families, art fanatics and hikers could enjoy harmoniously.
Griffis Sculpture Park also hosts special events, such as 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 – the Kykuit estate is an exceptional landmark known for its architecture, history, landscaping and 20th-century sculpture collection. Now part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Kykuit is a hidden gem in the picturesque region of the Hudson River Valley.
The mansion features expansive terraced gardens and former governor and US Vice-President Nelson A Rockefeller’s art collection, with works by Picasso, Calder and David Smith, to name a few. He also bequeathed a collection of tapestries by Picasso, classic automobiles and horse-drawn carriages. Derived from 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 artworks by influential contemporary artists such as Mark di Suvero, Tom Otterness and Richard Serra, the Nassau County Museum of Art possesses a rich history. Once belonging to philanthropist William Cullen Bryant, followed by the North American Review owner Lloyd Stephens Bryce, and then prominent steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick, the estate sits on 145 acres (59ha) of protected land. Frick purchased the property 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 northeastern United States.
The gardens feature 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), one of the most prolific sculptors and designers from the 20th century, opened the Noguchi Museum in 1985 to showcase and preserve select pieces he felt best represented him as an innovator, and the museum has become one of his greatest legacies. Noguchi’s design includes an open-air sculpture garden and enclosed gallery space, allowing you to reflect upon his works in a manner that he, as the artist, deemed necessary. The sculpture garden features a permanent collection of his outdoor pieces, while the indoor space, with its multiple galleries, 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. It also hosts public events and offers education programs for people of all ages.
The Opus 40 Sculpture Park and Museum is named after the colossal on-site monument designed by Harvey Fite, cofounder of the Bard College of Fine Arts Department. The park, which is nearly 7 acres (3ha), took 37 years to complete, during which Fite also built a lodge, studio, blacksmith shop and the Quarryman’s Museum, exhibiting 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 epicenter – a nine-ton, three-story monolith.
A magnificent feat of landscape design and sculpture, Opus 40 is the sculpture park’s principal feature among the artist’s other works of wood and stone. The park continues to fulfill Fite’s artistic and cultural legacy, offering concerts, theatrical performances, lectures and outreach events.
Set amid 104 acres (42ha) of picturesque landscape in Madison County, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park exhibits works by both established and emerging artists across its outdoor space and on-site gallery. Within a peaceful, natural, thought-provoking and reflective setting, 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 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 more than 100 thoughtfully placed monumental sculptures by modern masters and contemporary talents, including Alexander Calder and Andy Goldsworthy, Storm King Art Center comprises 500 bucolic acres (202ha) 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, including pieces by Louise Bourgeois and 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.