The Sculpture Garden is part of the National Gallery of Art campus located on the north side of the National Mall in Washington, DC. This six-acre, outdoor public garden adjacent to the National Gallery of Art West Building is home to large-scale, modern sculpture nestled amongst winding paths and trees. In addition to the sculpture, visitors can enjoy refreshments at the Pavilion Café and the huge fountain that converts into an ice skating rink in the winter. Free jazz concerts are given here in the warmer months, blending modern art and music in a pleasant urban setting.
The National Gallery of Art campus is housed in three separate, but adjacent, locations. From west to east:
This page covers the Sculpture Garden. Click the links above to find out more about the other locations. Admission into all three locations is free. The National Gallery of Art website covers all three locations.
This six-acre, public garden designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin opened in 1999. At its center is a huge, circular fountain surrounded by a double row of shade trees with curvilinear paths drawing foot traffic toward the garden entrances. There are over 30 tree species in the garden, along with a host of colorful plants and shrubs that provide a soft backdrop for the strong-lined modern art installations scattered evenly throughout the park. Surrounded by a metal gate and groves of trees, the park is a seemingly quite space despite being located on Constitution Avenue, one of the busiest arteries in Washington, DC.
The Pavilion Café offers mid-priced meals, snacks and beverages year-round. The glass and iron structure, with both indoor and outdoor seating, is reminiscent of a Parisian cafe. Check here for the menus and hours.
The enormous, circular fountain in the center of the park serves a variety of purposes. In summer, it is a place to relax, enjoy food and beverage, watch the birds, and cool your feet. Curved, stone benches form an outer ring around the fountain, providing ample seating under a double row of shade trees. The low, concrete profile of the fountain’s base provides additional seating where visitors can peel off shoes and socks, and soak their feet in the cool water.
Water jets on the perimeter spray arches of water in an undulating flow that rise to meet in the center then gently recede back to their origin. At their peak height, a rainbow forms across the arched jets on sunny days. The whooshing and splashing sound of the water drowns out the noise from the nearby traffic, as well as all the cares of the day, creating an atmosphere of seclusion and relaxation amidst the urban jungle.
In winter, the fountain transforms into an ice skating rink, where families and friends find laughter under the steely gray skies. Check here for hours, fees and lessons.
On Friday evenings from mid-May to August, the Sculpture Garden is host to the enormously popular Jazz in the Garden concerts. Thousands of families, friends and DC professionals gather on the lawn for food, beverages and entertainment. The concerts are free, but there’s a bag check to enter the gate. Check here for more details.
The garden features over 20 large-scale, outdoor, modern art sculptures, each with unique character and design. Here are a few highlights:
AMOR by Robert Indiana, who also created the famous Love sculpture on display at the John F. Kennedy Plaza in downtown Philadelphia, PA.
Cheval Rouge (Red Horse) by Alexander Calder, the sculptor who designed the giant mobile hanging over the atrium at the National Gallery of Art East Building
An Entrance to the Paris Métropolitain by Hector Guimard is one of the original, Art Nouveau metro signs from Paris that was refurbished and placed near the Pavilion Café
Graft by Roxy Paine, the stainless steel tree reminiscent of a middle earth fantasy movie.
Learn more about each sculpture here.
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