“Help! Please free me!” An Afternoon at the Sculpture Garden

by Nick McAfee.

Do you think they know I'm metal?  I can't exactly run away

Do you think they know I’m metal? I can’t exactly run away

In theory this should be a really cool place and the National Gallery of Art also wants to make you think that it is. But some places just can’t live up to their hype; the sculpture garden is one of them.

To be fair, there are some fantastic sculptures in the garden, including a tree entirely made of metal. Even the birds might confuse it with the real tree.

The art itself is world class…so what is the issue? The problem with the garden is that the presentation is awful. The curators are so afraid that someone might touch or otherwise disturb the sculptures, that almost every work is surrounded by yellow tape and a do not enter sign. This disturbs the entire presentation of the garden and makes the experience feel very confining. It does however provide a beautiful metaphor for all of the bureaucracy and red tape in DC but I don’t think that is what the curators intended to do.This could have been a great experience in a peaceful garden with beautiful sculptures and plants, but it is ruined by the fear of the populace. Hiring more guards, although there are already a large number marching around, might help mitigate their concern without the National Gallery themselves disturbing the art. Plus, all of this metal is already exposed to the environment. There are just people here, no giants, so there will not be too much damage caused when a 2 year old wants to say hi to the big bunny.


One comment

  1. That really is unfortunate, to have a bunch of tape and signs distracting visitors from the actual sculptures. And, it looks really tacky. If they insist on having boundaries around the artwork, then it could be much more tastefully done. Or just have occasional signs that say ‘stay on the path’ or something. Or, maybe if it was just explained to visitors as they enter that touching the work is a no-no? Even 2 year-olds understand ‘no.’ But, like you said, the art is already exposed to the elements, so as long as the visitors aren’t spray painting or breaking the works I agree that they probably won’t do too much damage.
    How do you think this sculpture garden compares with the one at the BMA?

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