The Biggest Sculpture Garden in New Orleans Expands

Exploring the monumental Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA.

Centuries-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss lend a natural Louisiana backdrop to installations at the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Opened in 2003 as part of the adjacent New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), which is also located in City Park, the sculpture-dotted garden unveiled an extension this May, which doubled its size and added 25 new works of art.

A welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle typical of New Orleans, the garden before its expansion stretched 5 acres and contained 64 sculptures, some dating to the 19th century. Wander by a larger-than-life safety pin by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, take a selfie with one of Louise Bourgeois’ enormous bronze spiders, or sit in quiet contemplation of a brushed stainless-steel tower of repeated human figures that together resemble a spinal column (Karma by Korean sculptor Do-Ho Suh). Then, venture along a winding bridge to explore the new garden, which includes a striking mosaic piece by Teresita Fernández: a 60-foot-long glazed ceramic wall that evokes the Mississippi River and pays homage to the many cultures that have shaped New Orleans’ landscape.

“One of the things we love about the sculpture garden is that it is people’s first entry point to the gallery,” says NOMA curatorial associate Anne C.B. Roberts. “It is one of the best in the world. And Sydney and Walda are still very much involved in the art selection process,” she adds of its husband-and-wife benefactors, both respected cultural leaders in the city.

After an art viewing en plein air, you can stroll over to NOMA itself, which has more than 40,000 artworks in its permanent collection.


The Future Generation by William Zorach, 1942-47; Three Figures and Four Benches by George Segal, 1979; Ruth and Naomi by Leonard Baskin, 1979. Photo by Richard Sexton.


Corridor Pin, Blue, 1999, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and Joel Shapiro’s bronze Untitled, 1991. Photo by Richard Sexton.


Wind Sculpture V by Yinka Shonibare, 2013. Photo by R. Alokhin.


Window and Ladder, Too Late for Help by Leandro Erlich, 2008. Photo by Richard Sexton.


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