There are two primary ways to see sculptures made by renowned artists: within the walls of a museum and in a sculpture park. Though these sites are often separate from one another, some institutions feature both, making it easy to have two different experiences in a single outing.
Wondering where you can find some of these dual destinations? Here, we present 6 of the best museum sculpture gardens around the world, from the sunny south of France to the coast of Cornwall.
Fondation Maeght (Saint-Paul-de-Vence)
Nestled near the medieval center of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, an idyllic commune on the French Riviera, the Fondation Maeght features a stunning collection of modern masterpieces. In addition to its interior, which comprises exhibition rooms, an art library, and even a chapel, the site boasts beautiful outdoor gardens that are unlike any other.
Once outside, visitors will find a main sculpture garden displaying works by artists like Alexander Calder and Jean Arp, as well as a courtyard with works by Alberto Giacometti, a “labyrinth” adorned with whimsical works by Joan Miró, monumental mosaics by Marc Chagall and Pierre Tal Coat, a pool designed by Georges Braque, and a mechanical fountain by Pol Bury.
The Rodin Museum (Paris)
Auguste Rodin is one of the most important sculptors in history. Today, much of his most important work can be found at the Musée Rodin in Paris, where the French artist was born and based.
Comprising both an indoor space set in the Hôtel Biron (Rodin's former workshop) and a vast, three-hectare sculpture park, wandering around these grounds is an an ideal way to see Rodin’s body of work. Outside, you'll encounter some of Rodin's most pivotal pieces, including The Gates of Hell, The Three Shades, and, of course, The Thinker, which is beautifully set against a view of the Eiffel Tower.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (Washington DC)
As “the nation's museum,” it's no surprise that the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC has world-class sculpture holdings. Given their monumental scales, the pieces have been placed outside, culminating in a can't-miss garden just steps away from the museum.
What can you expect to find in this outdoor space? With a stationary Calder sculpture as its centerpiece, the modern and contemporary collection features work by Pop Art pioneers Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana, as well as work by celebrated female artist Louise Bourgeois and even one of Hector Guimard's iconic Paris Metro entrances.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington DC)
Just across the National Mall is the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. As part of the Smithsonian, this museum boasts 12,000 artworks, including a selection of 60 modern and contemporary sculptures installed just outside its walls.
Described by the institution as a “contemplative haven in the heart of our nation’s capital,” this sculpture garden has offered visitors an exceptional art experience since 1974. From Rodin castings to a Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin, the eclectic collection features work by an amazing cast of characters—and it will only get better, as earlier this year, the museum announced plans to revitalize this outdoor space.
Beeldenpark van het Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo)
With the world's second largest collection of Van Gogh works, the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands, is a site of pilgrimage for fans of the Post-Impressionist. However, on top of housing Van Gogh masterpieces like the Potato Eaters and Café Terrace at Night, the museum features an amazing collection of outdoor sculptures.
Measuring 25 hectares, the Kröller-Müller's sculpture garden is one of the largest in Europe. Here, visitors will find 160 pieces by famous artists like Jean Dubuffet, Marta Pan, and Pierre Huyghe. While the art is reason enough to visit this site, its wooded setting is just as captivating. “The surroundings elicit pure enjoyment, of both sculpture and nature,” the museum explains. “The garden is open all year round and exudes a different ambience with every season.”
Barbara Hepworth Museum (St Ives)
During World War II, English artist Barbara Hepworth and other modernist figures set up an artist's colony in St Ives, a seaside town in Cornwall. She lived, worked, and died in Trewyn Studios, a site that would eventually become the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Overseen by Tate—a network of major art museums in the United Kingdom—the museum and garden feature the largest collection of Hepworth works, including an impressive collection of bronze, stone, and wood sculptures. Most of the bronze works remain where Hepworth had placed them in her secluded garden, allowing the site to retain what made it so special to the artist. “Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic,” she said. “Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space.”
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