Though NYC’s art museums (The Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, etc.) are renowned for their permanent collections, their temporary exhibitions and their buildings, the latter can feel awfully crowded sometimes, what with all the tourists piling into the city, and ruining things for the rest of us. Which is why the New York region’s sculpture gardens are so great. Most (though not all) are far enough away from the crowds to give you room to breath, and since they're outdoors, you get the added benefit of communing with nature. Some sculpture gardens are right within the five boroughs, while some are short drive or day trip from Gotham, but either way, New York's sculpture gardens offer serene settings for contemplating art. To find out where you should go, consult our guide to The top sculpture gardens in New York.
Top outdoor sculpture gardens
Opened in 1953, MoMA’s outdoor courtyard is a classic of midcentury modern design, the brainchild of Philip Johnson working in tandem with landscape architect James Fanning. A soothing oasis amid the bustle of midtown, the space is used for temporary sculpture exhibitions, and features a central pool traversed by a minimalist slab serving as a footbridge. 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY
The largest outdoor space in New York City dedicated to exhibiting sculpture, Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City was created 30 years ago by sculptor Mark di Suvero, whose studio was nearby. The four-acre site was built on a abandoned landfill with sweeping views of Midtown Manhattan. Its program offers regularly rotating exhibitions of works by contemporary artists as well as outdoor performances and film screenings. 32-01 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, Queens
As the name implies, this institution is dedicated to the work of Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988). Opened in 1985 within a converted warehouse, the museum was designed by the artist himself as a showcase for his object. He also created its most notable feature: A garden connected to the main building. In fact, Noguchi conceived of the project as an outdoor sculpture garden that incorporated interior gallery spaces rather than the other way around. 9-01 33rd Road at Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Alexander Cheek
Opened in 1960, this sprawling 500-acre open-air museum near Storm King Mountain in upstate New York is the largest of its type in the country, with a collection of postwar and contemporary sculptures by the most renowned names in the medium. Storm King’s dramatic terrain of rolling lawns dotted with trees is carefully landscaped to provide an optimal vista for the work on view. 1 Museum Rd, New Windsor, NY
This upstate outdoor sculpture park is actually a single sculpture: A six-and-a-half acre environmental installation called Opus 40, which was built over a 37-year period by the artist Harvey Fite. In 1938, Fite purchased an abandoned quarry where he set to work creating Opus 40 out of millions of pieces bluestone dug from the site. The piece is conceived as a labyrinth assembled out of slabs and blocks fitted together according to a technique used by the Mayans. It takes serpentine form as series of pathways curling around pools, trees and fountains. The piece dips 16 feet underground in some places, before finally culminating as a monolith rising three stories high. 50 Fite Road, Saugerties NY
Is the High Line really a sculpture park? Well, it is outdoors and it is lined with commissioned artworks that are largely sculptural, so yeah. The High Line mounts a changing schedule of projects performances and video screenings year-round. Tenth Avenue between Gansevoort Street and West 30th Street
Part of the Omi International Arts Center in Columbia County, New York, The Fields Sculpture Park occupies 150 acres of Omi’s 500-acre spread and mounts a year-round program of 50 to 100 permanent and temporary installations by contemporary artists taking full advantage of the surrounding Catskills landscape. 1405 County Route 22, Ghent, NY
A 42-acre site in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, Grounds For Sculpture was conceived by its founder—artist and Johnson & Johnson heir, John Seward Johnson II—as showcase for his own sculptures as well as for works by other contemporary artists. The grounds feature a generous selection of his hyper-realistic, painted bronze figures (of ordinary people, but also figures derived from famous photos and paintings) along with temporary exhibitions of established and emerging sculptors. 80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton Township, NJ
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Takes Long Walks
This collection of 45 outdoor sculpture by important 19th- and 20th-century figures such as Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder and Alberto Giacometti, as well as works by major postwar artists such as Arnaldo Pomodoro, Claes Oldenburg and George Segal, is located on the grounds of PepsiCo world headquarters in Purchase, NY. Founded by former PepsiCo chairman, Donald M. Kendall, the garden spreads across 168 acres of landscaped terrain. 700 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase, NY
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/John Menard
Situated within the 450 acre Ashford Hollow Park in upstate New York, Griffis Sculpture Park is primarily a showcase for outdoor art by its namesake, Larry Griffis, Jr. Since the early 1960s, the park has been home to Griffis’s monumental steel sculptures as well as those by an international roster of artists. Some 250 pieces in all dot the landscape, which comprises woods, fields and ponds. Additionally, the site offers mile of hiking trails. Griffis Sculpture Park is open seasonally between May 1 and October 31.
A DIY venture, the Elmhurst Sculpture Garden began life as empty, overgrown lot next to an Olive Garden. Two artists—Yvonne Shortt and Mayuko Fujino—got the idea to turn the location into a home for outdoor art. With the help of local volunteers (including a church group called “Our Savior”), the land was cleared of trash, park benches were added and in 2017, the newly-christened Elmhurst Sculpture Garden opened with the aim of promoting community artists. Though the park currently measures 2,500 square feet, the hope is that it can be expanded to 10,000 square feet. And if you ever get hungry while visiting the place, remember that there's an Olive Garden next door.
The Defenr Judaica Museum was founded in 1982 with a gift of 800 Jewish ceremonial objects from local Riverdale residents Ralph and Leuba Baum, while The Art Collection features American and Western European contemporary and modern artists representing a range of styles, from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art to Minimalism. The grounds also include a sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River.
Nestled on 104 acres near the Finger Lakes region in Western New York, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park features outdoor installations and sculptures by contemporary artists as well as four miles of hiking trails. The park offers a program of other art-related event and supports a residency program for artists from around the world. 3883 Stone Quarry Rd, Cazenovia, NY
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Glenda Popielarksi