Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
I love sculpture – and I love gardens! I especially love gardens with paths on which to meander while I explore its treasures, both natural and man-made! When they are combined – sculptures, gardens, pathways – there it is even more to love! We who live in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul are blessed to have one of the best sculpture gardens every created.
Continuing with my Travel Dates to local sites, this Day Trip included the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I recommend allowing about two hours to fully engage with The Garden. Other close by sites that a visitor could add to the Day Trip include the Walker Art Center, Groveland Art Gallery, Loring Park and Basilica of St. Mary. Check back for more on these places in future posts along with other sculpture gardens in the area!
Since opening in 1988, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has welcomed millions of visitors, showcasing works from the Walker Art Center’s renowned collections of modern and contemporary art in the setting of an urban park.
P.C. Cher B 30 June 2021
With 11 landscaped acres including more than 40 artworks, it is the largest urban sculpture garden in the United States. This destination unites two locally cherished resources: parks and culture. The Garden is a partnership between the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Park Board, a national award-winning park system. A recent renovation of the layout in 2017 and the sculptures within the Garden gave it a fresh face and made it a new adventure for my latest visit!
Aerial view of the Garden, facing north (disregard the layout of the artwork; it is of the original format, not current redo). The Walker Art Center is at the bottom; Dunwoody College of Technology (red roof) is at the center top. The freeways at the very top are I-394 coming from the west merging with I-94 from the north.
(Photo courtesy of ExploreMinnesota.com)
The focal point of the Garden is Spoonbridge & Cherry, an iconic sculpture by Claes Oldenburg & Coosie van Bruggen. Balancing on mini-island within a curvy pond, it includes a water fountain spouting off of the tip of cherry stem. This provided us with a welcome mist on the hot, sunny day of our recent visit.
The Basilica of St. Mary, at the edge of downtown Minneapolis, highlights the background. (Check back for more on this magnificent church coming in a future blog!)
The LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana was one of the new sculptures I was looking forward to seeing in person; it did not disappoint. Joined on this Day Trip by my dear friend and cousin, Mary, we wandered down the paved paths, discovered and discussed the art, explored the variety of native grasses and plants that fill the Garden, and had fun taking photographs!
In our wanderings, we connected with a mom with two young daughters with whom we did a “photographer swap” so the three of them could be together in a photo (taken by one of us) and Mary and I could be together in a photo taken by one of them! It turned out that one of the daughters proved to have an excellent eye for photography! (Read more on my blog: Travel Tips for a Photographer Swap)
Garden in the Heart of the City
In the heart of the city of Minneapolis, the Garden is flanked by many note-worthy places for a visitor to the city to explore. Check back on my blog for future posts on some of these places!
Basilica of St. Mary
A Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul, on Hennepin Avenue at the edge of downtown Minneapolis, it serves as a great bookend to the north side of the Garden (mary.org)
St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
To the southeast of the gardens, this church “lives at the gateway to the Minneapolis arts & culture district” (ourcathedral.org) and overlooks Loring Park, just across the bridge from the Garden
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
This bridge is both Architecture and Art, providing a gateway between the green spaces of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Loring Park to the east
Walker Art Center
Serving as the southern bookend of the Garden, this world class, multidisciplinary contemporary art center, is across the street from St. Mark’s Cathedral and entrance to the Lowery Hill area of Minneapolis (walkerart.org)
The Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
by Saih Armanjani (1988) is made of steel, wood, paint, concrete, and brass.
Named to honor Irene Hixon Whitney (1926–1986), a prominent Minnesotan, for her lifelong commitment to bring together people of diverse backgrounds and interests.
The 375-foot design spans 16 lanes of streets and highway, and combines elements of traditional beam, arch, and suspension bridges.
Pedestrians crossing in each direction are offered a meditation on movement, place and order with a poem by John Ashbery running across its interior from end to end.
P.C. Cher B 30 June 2021
Garden filled with Sculptures
The Garden is filled with well-known sculptures by famous artists whose names I immediately recognize plus others who are new to me. As with any art museum, I have my favorites – and not-so-favorites. Here are some of my favorites that I feel are also the highlights of the Garden and worthy of a stop.
For a complete list of artworks and map of the Garden, check out the website: artgarden.org.
Centerpiece of the Garden
“Spoonbridge & Cherry”
The iconic symbol and undisputed highlight of the Garden is “Spoonbridge & Cherry.” It was created by Claes Oldenburg and his wife and artistic partner, Coosje van Bruggen. Both are best known for their enormous sculptures of ordinary, everyday objects; this is my favorite.
When construction began on the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (1980s), the Walker Art Center asked them to design a fountain sculpture that would serve as the centerpiece of the new Garden. It has been thrilling visitors for over 30 years!
The glass roof of the Cowles Pavilion Regis Promenade in the background (photo on right) adds architectural interest. However, this is one aspect of the remodeled Garden that I feel was better left as it was before with its walls of lush greenery and a fabulous 2-story tall glass fish which filled the center section.
Native grasses, mixed with manicured lawns, add interest to the Garden’s landscape.
We are One with the Sculpture
With this structure and its rows of trees, Graham created one in a series of artworks he calls “pavilions.” It creates a framework for looking at the world in unexpected ways, exploring the connections between art and audience.
“Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth”
Don Graham created this large geometric maze as a space for visitors to interact with architecture, each other, and themselves.
We found this artwork fascinating because the walls are both transparent and mirrored, allowing us to simultaneously see our own reflections and the surrounding environment.
Because of the mid-day lighting, Mary and I could not get any good photos here. However, this one taken with my sister and daughters in 2014 really exemplifies how fun the interaction with this sculpture can be!
Feathered & Furry Friends in the Garden
Something “old” and something “new”… and something very, very “blue!”
Katharina Fritsch “Hahn/Cock”
“Hahn/Cock” is a newcomer to the Garden. Fritsch is another sculptor who uses everyday things as the subjects of her sculptures. By changing their size, color, and materials, she makes them look unique and surprising.
The monumental 20′ tall, ultramarine blue rooster is the artist’s largest public art piece to be housed in the U.S. museum collection. This playful piece blurs the boundaries between the ordinary and the deeply symbolic.
Surprise of the day!
This gigantic blue rooster is fun, fun, fun!
It was my surprise of the day as I did not expect it to be SO BIG!!! And SO BLUE!
What I discovered was also fun was that the shadow created by my hand mimicked the roosters comb and arch of his back!
Seeing Woodrow, the horse, was like seeing an old friend! A part of the Garden sculptures since its beginning, he has always been another of my favorites!
I continue to be amazed at how the Butterfield was able to create the metal sculpture to look, even close up, like it was made with wood!
To create the sculpture, she collected sticks and bark, carefully cast each piece in bronze, then reassembled and welded them together to form the horse’s body. The sculpture was then given a patina (surface treatment) to mimic the color of the original sticks. The meticulous result— known as trompe l’oeil, or “trick of the eye”— gives Woodrow its convincing wood like appearance.
Deborah Butterfield “Woodrow”
Inspired by horses on her ranch under the expansive Montana sky in the 1970s, Butterfield has been making art constructed with found objects such as wood, scrap metal, etc. Woodrow is her first outdoor sculpture and while it appears to be made of branches, it is actually metal in order to better withstand the elements.
Fun Favorites: Both Art & Artist
Alexander Calder “Spinner”
Alexander Calder‘s art is fun because they have wonderful, colorful, abstract shapes, and are often outdoors and function as street art – which I greatly enjoy.
He created his first (1931) truly kinetic sculpture – a construction of carefully balanced elements that could rotate solely by currents of air or wind – creating a constantly changing effect – like this “Spinner.” Known as “mobiles,” some were also suspended from the ceiling.
Louise Nevelson “Dawn Tree”
I enjoy the works of Louise Nevelson because she pushes the use of one color and provides the viewer with many shades of the “same” color. I’ve seen a number of her wooden assemblages, but this is the first metal one.
Best known for the mysterious, large-scale wooden “walls” with compartmentalized assemblages of shallow wood crates, she crams them with fragments of architectural ornamentation, pieces of castoff furniture, etc., Painted a uniform, flat black (my favorite) and later, white or gold, they maximize the value of the base color.
She began using welded aluminum (1970s) to create flowers and trees, etc. such as “Dawn Tree” with a collage of flattened shapes.
Robert Indiana “LOVE”
I have been in love with this LOVE ever since I was first introduced to this iconic design at the MoMA (Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art) while living in New York City in 1969.
Variations of Robert Indiana‘s iconic LOVE design are his most famous works of art. They range from postage stamps to gigantic versions in brightly painted steel. He has created many of these sculptures, displayed around the world. The LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia (city of brotherly love) is a common setting for romantic engagements, including for one of my former students!
Painted in one solid, or two or more colors, the Walker’s version is made of a special type of steel that is meant to look rusty but does not need paint.
My blog on Indiana’s LOVE art has additional interesting information on both the art and the artist.
Roy Lichtenstein “Salute to Painting”
“Salute to Painting” is made up of splashes of red, white, pink and yellow – Roy Lichtenstein‘s interpretation of four strokes from a paintbrush.
Primarily known as a painter, Lichtenstein transformed some of his images into 3-Dimensions. In “Salute to Painting,” his brushstrokes break away from an imagined canvas, standing alone at over 4′ tall (50″ x 22 1/2″).
This witty monument to modern art was created specifically to sit on the brick platform of the Walker Art Center. From a distance it appears like fluttering flags.
For more info on Lichtenstein’s unique art, and his “Head of Barcelona,” check out my blog on his artwork in Barcelona, Spain.
The Human Figure in Sculpture
The human figure is a subject of much artistic exploration and expression; the works in the Garden are no exceptions!
George Segal “Walking Man”
Th sculptures by George Segal are easy to spot; I look forward to seeing them when I visit other museums! He created sculptures of ordinary people doing ordinary things – such as this man walking; he was not interested in famous people of celebrities.
Segal’s sculpture are life size since they are cast from a real person. He would cover the model with wet plaster; when it dried, the hard plaster mold would be removed, having dried in the exact shape of the model. For bronze sculptures such as “Walking Man,” he filled the mold with hot, liquid bronze. When it cooled, it hardened into the sculpture seen here. The process was similar for his white plaster cast figures.
Part of the original installation in the Garden, “Walking Man” took a short working vacation as a guest of President and Mrs. Bill Clinton, taking a walk in the White House Sculpture Garden.
The Walker Art Center also has a indoor exhibit of a white sculpted plaster man sitting at a real-life dining, being served a cup of coffee by a white sculpted plaster woman (“The Diner”).
Henry Moore “Reclining Mother & Child”
Two of my favorite elements of design are shape and form. Henry Moore’s sculptures never disappoint! Even if the subjects might be difficult to identify at first glance, such as the “Reclining Mother & Child,” the shapes and form are always pleasing to the eye.
Moore used abstract forms to create powerful renderings of the human body throughout his career. A frequent theme was of a reclining mother enfolding her child in a protective embrace such as in this sculpture. His abstract, curved forms often have references to the figure or to nature which he explored through wood, stone and metal casts from clay or plaster.
Thomas Schutte “Bronze Woman IV”
The name and art of Thomas Schütte was new to me; I found his sculpture intriguing and plan to continue further research into his other art. His work, at least as seen here, seems somewhere on the spectrum between Segal’s “Walking Man” and Moore’s “Reclining Mother & Child.”
“Bronze Woman IV” is a work of art that seems both familiar and strange. In it, the artist challenges our expectations of sculpture. He places a form that seems fluid or soft on an industrial-looking table, vs. the traditional pedestal. I am intrigued at how the figure is distorted in a way as if it is modeled from clay, then flattened. The beautifully shaped body in his sculpture is still recognizable, despite its indistinct contours.
Judith Shay “Without Words”
I have always found Judith Shea‘s sculptures intriguing. Now I know why! She appeals to my sense of both design and 3D art.
Trained as a fashion designer, Shea found the field restrictive and abandoned it in favor of sculpture. She uses clothes as abstract forms and as substitutes for human presence. What fun!
In the Garden’s “Without Words,” Shea groups her figures into a narrative, combines modern life and antiquity. The head was based on an Egyptian 18th Dynasty sculpture of Queen Tiye (mother of Nefertiti). The dress combines archaic Greek statuary and 1950s sleek couture. The empty coat is modern, with the flowing drapery of classical sculpture.
Mark Manders “September Room”
This sculpture was rather jarring to me at first glance. The faces are realistic, but the combination is disconcerting, as the artist meant it to be, I’m sure. Still, the scene invited me to enter the “room” and take a closer look.
Mark Manders combines human figures and architectural elements to evoke the past and present, the familiar and unfamiliar. In “September Room,” three monumental heads recall classical Greek sculpture, trapped between boards or beams.
The figures are metal but appear to be modeled in wood or wet clay. The title suggests a living space, emphasized by the inclusion of three chairs on which visitors are invited to sit in his imaginary room and become part of the sculpture. Unfortunately, our visit was mid-day, under the hot sun, and the bronze chairs were too hot to touch, let alone sit in! Ouch!
Tony Cragg “Level Head”
I became familiar with the work of Tony Cragg through a sculpture of his at the Minneapolis Institute of art titled “Pulse.” It also has interesting shapes as they twist and turn throughout the artwork.
Taking his cue from natural wonders, Tony Cragg creates sculptures that explore wide-ranging phenomena, from the microscopic to the monumental.
“Level Head” evokes the impressive rock formations found around the world. Cragg adds a human touch to these features of the natural landscape: wherever you stand when looking at this artwork, silhouettes of human faces emerge. Intriguing profiles twist and turn around a vertical axis, changing and shape-shifting with each new angle viewed. The more I looked, the more I saw! it was fascinating! I will play closer attention to his work when I am privileged to see it again in the future.
History: The Garden before it was the Sculpture Garden
Being interested in history and curious as to what things looked like “way back when…” I discovered some interesting information in the Minneapolis Parks website discussion on this site between 1906 and 1967 (MinneapolisParks.org). I’d like to share it with you.
“Even though the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is relatively young—this park land’s history as a garden dates back more than a century. In fact, the formal quartet of “roofless galleries” that anchors the garden, often likened to formal 18th-century European designs, this link to the early 20th century is more direct.”
“The land that became the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was donated to the Park Board in 1906 by Thomas Lowry, whose home was just up the hill, where the Walker Art Gallery and Walker Art Center would later be built. This acreage was just a small slice of the total land donated for parks over the years by Lowry, a real-estate magnate and head of the Minneapolis Street Railway Co. (later the Twin Cities Rapid Transit System).” (Photo and info from MinneapolisParks.org)
TRAVEL TIP: It is always a challenge when traveling, even if you are proficient at selfies, to get a photo of yourself (if you are a single traveler) or a shot with all members of your group. How to approach – and trust – a stranger to take your photo is always a question asked. I have posted some suggestions on my Travel Tips post on The Right Photographer Swap.
Visit the Garden
- Address: 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403
- Getting there: Easy to get to from any direction. The Minneapolis Park and Walker websites have good maps and directions.
- Hours: Visit the Garden 365 days/year; 6:00 am – 12:00 midnight.
- Admission: Always FREE! (And if you are fortunate enough to find on-street parking, that may be free as well!)
- Parking: If free, on-street parking is not available, several pay parking options are available. (1) in the City of Minneapolis underground parking garage on the Walker site (entrance on Vineland Place at Bryant Avenue). (2) in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden pay lot (west of the Garden, next to the Spinner sculpture). (3) additional on the street (hourly and metered).
- P.C. Cher B 30 June 2021
- All photos taken by Cher B, 30 June 2021 and June 2014 (unless otherwise noted)
- Self-guided tour of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by Cher B, 30 June 2021