How to Enjoy Art Al Fresco

By Paul Jebara  •    •  April 23, 2019

How to Enjoy Art Al Fresco

By Paul Jebara  •  April 23, 2019

Don’t let the siren call of warm weather go to waste: it’s the perfect season to enjoy great artwork outdoors, from a fantastical medieval sculpture garden in Italy to galleries that open up to the sea in China.

Washington D.C.: Glenstone


The District has no shortage of outdoor art—including the popular sculpture gardens at the Hirshhorn and the National Gallery—but Washingtonians are buzzing about this newly revamped open-air museum in Potomac, Maryland, around 15 miles outside the city. Billionaire art collector Mitchell Rales and his curator wife Emily Wei Rales opened Glenstone on their private estate in 2008, and just completed a major expansion this past fall. Blending art, architecture, and landscape, a series of Modernist limestone pavilions surround a lush, 18,000 square-foot water garden and house postwar paintings, sculptures, and sound installations. Some of Glenstone’s most iconic pieces include Jeff Koons’s flowering Split Rocker, inspired by a rocking horse and standing almost 40 feet tall, Smug, by sculptor Tony Smith, and Sylvester. an engrossing spiral work from Richard Serra.

Where to stay in Washington, D.C.

Beijing: UCCA Dune Museum


Carved into a sand dune along China’s Bohai Bay, the Dune Art Museum gently disappears into its coastal setting. An outpost of Beijing’s Ullen Center for Contemporary Art (one of the capital’s most prominent museums), this subterranean network of concrete galleries spans over 10,000 square feet, with skylights bathing the contemporary works with natural light. Visitors emerge from the cave-like structure via a spiral staircase that reaches a lookout atop the dune’s peak. In the institution’s inaugural exhibition, “After Nature,” contemporary Chinese artists explored the bonds between the human and natural worlds. Up next: “Land of the Lustrous,” which focuses on the significance of stone in culture with works from nine Chinese artists. On view April 23 – September 1, 2019.

Where to Stay in Beijing

Tuscany: Sacro Bosco


A 16h-century wonderland of fantastical sculptures and whimsical landscaping, the “Sacred Wood,” in the town of Bomarzo, was commissioned in the 1540s by the grieving Duke Pier Francesco Orsini after the death of his wife. A notable follower of Epicureanism, Orisini defied Renaissance expectations for symmetry and refinement and sought to create something entirely fresh. And so amid Bomarzo’s overgrown gardens you’ll find macabre sculptures of sharp-toothed monsters and bizarre animals, including a whale, a dragon, lions, bears, and a multi-headed Cerberus. Morbid inscriptions serve as captions to the Mannerist works—“All Reason Departs” says one inscription, next to the frightening open-mouthed head of Orcus. The garden was left abandoned, but interest spiked again after Salvador Dali made a short film about the Sacro Bosco in the late 1940s, prompting a restoration.

Where to Stay in Tuscany

New York City: Noguchi Museum


The serene, abstract expressionist works of Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi led to his reputation as one of the 20th century’s most revered sculptors. Founded in 1986, the museum devoted to his life holds the greatest concentration of his works and serves as an oasis of calm in Long Island City, Queens, directly across the East River from Manhattan. (Noguchi’s selection of the neighborhood helped turn the once industrial zone into a veritable arts district, today home to MoMA PS1, the Museum of the Moving Image, and Socrates Sculpture Park.) In addition to its bi-level gallery spaces, the museum includes a tranquil, ivy-lined sculpture garden, which houses a collection of works hand-picked by Noguchi himself.

Where to Stay in New York City

Paris: Musée Rodin


A favorite of many visitors to Paris, the iconic Rodin Museum celebrates France’s most beloved sculptor, Auguste Rodin. Opened in 1919 on his Parisian estate, the Hôtel Biron, the museum’s 6,000-piece permanent collection also includes works by the artist’s lover and apprentice, Camille Claudel, as well as marbles that date back to Ancient Rome. Wander the leafy promenades of the manicured, seven-acre garden to discover iconic works including The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. In spring, the stunning rose garden nearly steals the show.

Where to Stay in Paris

Dallas: Deep Ellum


Prior to an influx of trendy Tex-Mex joints, brewpubs, and clothing boutiques, Dallas’s historic Deep Ellum neighborhood was a warehouse district. A decade ago, the Deep Ellum Murals Project helped turn the neighborhood’s bare walls into a blank canvas for graffiti artists to help beautify the dilapidated area. Today, visitors can walk its five main streets (Pacific, Elm, Main, Commerce and Canton) to discover the visual treat of 40-plus colorful murals. Nearly every brick façade is covered by works by amateur and professional street artists, including Emmy Award–winning Mexican animator Jorge Gutierrez and Dallas native Lesli Marshall, who helped kickstart the project. As with New York’s Bushwick and Miami’s Wynwood, the street art has helped turn the area into Dallas’s creative hub, with live music venues, contemporary galleries, and public installations like The Traveling Man, a trio of giant metal robot statues by artist Brad Oldham.

Where to Stay in Dallas


Glenstone: 12100 Glen Road Potomac, Maryland; +1 301-983-5001

UCCA Dune Museum: Aranya Gold Coast Community, Changli, Qinhuangdao

Noguchi Museum: 9-01 33rd Road; +1 718-204-7088

Sacro Bosco: Località Giardino, 01020 Bomarzo; +39 761-924-029

Musée Rodin: 77 rue de Varenne; +33 144-18-61-10

Deep Ellum: Corner of Commerce and Crowdus streets

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Written By: Paul Jebara


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