Many museums and galleries across the country have cautiously begun to reopen in recent weeks, offering a chance for the culture-starved to enjoy a moment of reprieve with their favorite works of art. Still, the lines can be long, and timed ticketing limits a more impulsive visit.
These seven sculpture gardens or outdoor art spaces — ranging from world-class art collections to more hidden and eccentric destinations — are especially appealing beginning this month, when the weather is ideal for strolling outside and the fall programming and curatorial programs (some of them delayed from closings this summer) begin in earnest.
This 42-acre park and museum was founded in 1992 by the American artist Seward Johnson, with the hope of promoting a better understanding of contemporary sculpture. Close to 300 works by artists such as Beverly Pepper, Kiki Smith, Anthony Caro, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Austin Wright populate the grounds, where natural woodlands, ponds and bamboo groves are set alongside paved terraces, pergolas and courtyards where the occasional peacock may make an appearance. Included, of course, are several of Johnson’s own pop-art-inflected, larger-than-life figures. Families with children under 12 can purchase an ArtBox — a beginner’s sculpture kit — in advance of their visit. Don’t miss the recently installed show “Rebirth,” composed of six works made from steel elevator cables by the Taiwanese sculptor Kang Muxiang.
Named after Storm King Mountain located along the Hudson River and built on what now encompasses 500 acres, this open-air museum is home to some of the best contemporary and mid-20th-century sculpture. Works from artists such as Alexander Calder, Richard Serra and Louise Bourgeois have been carefully installed in relation to the landscape, where at every turn you encounter stunning vistas, especially as leaves begin to change. A visitor favorite is Maya Lin’s 2009 “Storm King Wavefield” — seven undulating rows sculpted into the land itself. Part of the appeal of Storm King is its excellently curated exhibition program. This fall there are two new outdoor works inspired by the local landscape: an installation of Kiki Smith’s large-scale flag textiles and Martha Tuttle’s cairns. Visitors must book ahead online. Timed-entry tickets are released in two-week blocks every Wednesday; $20 each for the first two people in a car. The museum is offering free admission this year to frontline medical workers, active military and their families and others.
Built in 1988, and one of the country’s premier sculpture gardens, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is open to the public from 6 a.m. to midnight, with more than 60 works of art across 19 campus acres — all free. Though most visitors are drawn to the garden’s inaugural centerpiece, “Spoonbridge and Cherry,” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, there are many other important works of art from artists like Sol Lewitt, Eva Rothschild and James Turrell. In 2017, the gardens underwent an extensive renovation. Pieces from contemporary artists such as Theaster Gates and Katherina Fritsch were added, and a former wetland was restored and planted with native flora to help feed essential and imperiled pollinators such as monarch butterflies and bees. The garden is an ongoing collaboration between the city’s parks department and the Walker Art Center, which, through a ticketed and timed system, is also now open to the public.
Three hours north of New York City in the bucolic Berkshires sits the Clark, whose indoor collection of French Impressionism and 19th-century academic painting is matched only by its expansive 140-acre campus and recent outstanding architectural additions from Tadao Ando and Annabelle Selldorf. The Clark is one of the three great museums in the area — the other two being MASS MoCA and the Williams College Museum. “Ground/work,” the Clark’s first outdoor exhibition, opens on Oct. 5, featuring newly commissioned work from the artists Kelly Akashi, Nairy Baghramian, Eva LeWitt, Jennie C. Jones, Analia Saban and Haegue Yang. Each was asked to create work in dialogue with the Clark’s natural terrain.
Located in the northeastern corner of Arkansas and opened in 2011, Crystal Bridges was developed largely by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton of the Walmart fortune. The museum, which was designed by the Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, has amassed an impressive collection of American art that includes works by Jasper Johns, Ruth Asawa, Georgia O’Keeffe, Josef and Anni Albers and many others. Parts of it are now open to the public (although the Frank Lloyd Wright House on its campus remains closed), with timed tickets and walk-up entry. Twenty acres of Ozark forest surround the museum, offering five miles of walking and biking trails, with artwork throughout, including pieces by Carol Bove, Deborah Butterfield and R. Buckminster Fuller. Every Friday, the museum offers a ticketed, free and family-friendly concert, performance or art activity.
This museum, built by the larger-than-life Dallas philanthropist and real estate developer Raymond Nasher and his wife, Patsy, and located in the downtown arts district, brings together a vast collection of sculptural masterpieces, with works from the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, as well as Pablo Picasso, Ellsworth Kelly, Barbara Hepworth and many others. The museum, which was designed by Renzo Piano in 1997, is now admitting visitors, with a timed ticket system. The 1.5-acre garden designed by the landscape architect Peter Walker adds to the serenity of the place. Works on view outdoors this month include Willem de Kooning’s “Seated Woman” and Hepworth’s “Squares With Two Circles (Monolith)” as well as pieces by Joan Miró and Mark di Suvero.
Costa Mesa, Calif.
The sculptor Isamu Noguchi is perhaps most closely associated with his museum in Queens (reopening this month), which he created to preserve the site-specific nature of his work, ranging from lamps to coffee tables to monumental sculpture. In 1979, the Segerstrom family — one of Southern California’s leading patrons of the arts — commissioned the prolific Japanese-American artist to create a sculpture garden for the South Coast Plaza shopping mall, built on top of the lima bean ranch from which the Segerstroms originally made their fortune. Partly a work of abstract land-art and partly a riff on a Zen rock garden, California Scenario — open and free to the public — is a geometric tribute to the area’s landscape.