The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden

While we were in New York, we also visited several museums: The Neue Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. On a warm evening last Friday (free to the public on Friday evenings), I spent some time in the recently restored Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The modern bronze pieces by Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti and other artists were not the only sculptural elements to this public space which has been called the social heart of  MOMA. The selection of trees and their arrangement added to the allure of this oasis in the city.

The bark of Ulmus parvifolia and Betula populifolia 'Whitespire' and the structure of Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula' contributed to the overall experience in the garden in early spring. I especially liked the way they were plated in small groves of a single species.  Ulmus parvifolia contrasted particularly well against the light gray stone walls of the space. Another example of the importance of the how a plant looks during the long winter season when all our plants are dormant.

Henry Matisse The Back (I) 1908-09, The Back (II) 1911-13, The Back (III)1913-16 Bronze

Katharina Fritsch. Figurengruppe/Group of Figures. 2006–08 (fabricated 2010–11). Bronze, copper, and stainless steel, lacquered.

Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula'

Ulmus parvifolia

Betula populifolia 'Whitespire'

Pablo Picasso. She-Goat. 1950 (cast 1952) Bronze

Max Ernst, "The King Playing With The Queen" (1944, cast 1954), Bronze

Elie Nadelman, "Man In The Open Air" (c. 1915), Bronze

Henry Moore, "Family Group (1948-1949, cast 1950, Bronze)

Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983) | Moonbird | 1966 | Bronze

Renee Sintenis Daphne 1930 Bronze

Aristide Maillol. The River. Begun 1938–39; completed 1943 (cast 1948)

Gaston Lachaise, "Floating Figure" (1927, cast 1935), Bronze

Alberto Giacometti. Tall Figure, III. 1960 Bronze


  1. Lovely post, Michael. It makes me want to live in New York (sometimes I think I don't).

  2. James,"
    I am jealous of your country/city homes and gardens. I tend to think "I will get around to it" when I have lived near interesting landmarks.For instance, I grew up outside Philadelphia and didn't see the Liberty Bell until I was 26 and The Man in the Mountain's face fell off before I had a chance to see it in my first 15 years in NH. Maybe you should drop in at the MOMA sometime!

  3. Great post! A sculpture garden in the truest sense of the word. It's been ages since I've visited MOMA, but I guess I will have to do so soon.

  4. Michael.
    Make sure you visit the sculpture garden when you go.

  5. The sculptures are wonderful, Michael. And so are those Fagus sylvatica 'Pendulas'!

  6. I heard tell that a garden without plants could be a sculpture garden. But I see that even a sculpture garden has plants!
    Love it. u r dead right about the importance of plant selection and how the trees sing out in their winter grace. I wasn't that sure about the ground cover. Was it ivy. It didn't look that happy. But minor caveat a real and really well used oasis!

  7. Joe,
    I agree, the beech trees are really nice.

    I thought the same thing about the ground cover. I think they might use some generic Impatiens in the summer. More interesting choices for both seasons would compliment the world class sculpture! How about some world class horticulture to go with that Picasso? Looking at gardens in all four seasons is always helpful, especially here in New Hampshire. Thanks for commenting.

  8. We spent the better part of a day at MOMA in 2010 and had lunch in the sculpture garden. Yoko Ono had a project going on inside and outside, and she was encouraging people to attach their wishes written on small pieces of paper to several trees in the courtyard. I think they were some sort of weeping pussywillow. There must of been thousands of small wishes tied to the tree and I loved seeing so many different hands, languages and alphabets.

  9. Les,
    That sounds amazing. I don't think the salix are there any longer. They must have been replaced after the 2007 renovation. We came across something like that in the street at an entrance to the High Line. I should post about it.

  10. So much to see there, where every little space seems like it has something of interest. I wish the wild southwest had more untouched space, and the touched parts filled better! The sculptures and their settings all seem to sing out, on even a dull day.

  11. David,
    It is funny, I always think of the southwest as having vast expanses of untouched space. However, when I lived in Colorado, I felt like that many of the touched parts could have filled better. One of the nice aspects about living in a small town in New England is that the original old parts of the town were touched well. Thanks for commenting.



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