Art / Travel / USA

Waterproof: Survival Tale Of New Orleans’ Sculpture Garden


Artists, by nature, are creative people. But if their works are displayed outdoors, some practical thinking is required to make sure they stand up to the elements.

The Bestoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) must be the award winner for proof of these dual requirements. 

Pablo Casals

“Pablo Casals’s Obelisk” by Armand Pierre Fernandez 1983

Heat, cold, rain, and snow are the normal meteorological adversaries of public art; but for sculptures to stand in 6 feet of salt water for 20 days must be the ultimate test!

Venus Victorious by Pierre-August Renoir 1914 Hercules the Archer by Antoine Bourdelle 1947

“Venus Victorious” by Pierre-August Renoir 1914
“Hercules the Archer” by Antoine Bourdelle 1947

And this is exactly what happened when the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina overtopped the levees near the museum almost ten years ago. 

Henry Moore

“Reclining Mother and Child” by Henry Moore 1973

NOMA is in the City Park neighborhood near Lake Ponchartrain. The sculpture garden has an excellent collection of art from world-renowned masters such as Renoir, Rodin, and Magritte; but we particularly enjoyed the more contemporary, avant-garde pieces.

Karma by Do-Ho Suh 2011

“Karma” by Do-Ho Suh 2011

And while a few sculptures were added post-Katrina, it’s impossible to imagine how the pre-storm works survived the flood without damage. But we’re amazed to find that they did. 

Monkeys 1

“Monkeys” by Rona Pondick 1998-2001

Take a stroll with us through this wonderful sculpture garden and enjoy some of our favorites. 

Overflow by Jaume Plensa 2005

“Overflow “by Jaume Plensa 2005

Overflow 1

“Overflow “by Jaume Plensa 2005

Future Generations by William Zorach 1942-47

“Future Generations” by William Zorach 1942-47

The NOMA sculpture garden is a world-class exhibit, which is even more amazing considering its history. If you visit New Orleans, don’t miss this endearing symbol of its survival and rebirth. 

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

P.S. If you love New Orleans as much as we do you may enjoy these other posts in our New Orleans Series.

Three figures

“Three Figures and Four Benches” by George Segal 1979

45 thoughts on “Waterproof: Survival Tale Of New Orleans’ Sculpture Garden

  1. You look very comfortable with your friend James. 🙂
    I had no idea about these sculptures. I wonder if there was a lot of restorative work required post Katrina.
    Hard to pick a favorite but I am going to go with ‘Overflow’. All those letters just calling out to be made into words. Really a blog post asking to be built. 🙂

    • Staff at the museum said that one of the tall sculptures (not in post) was blown over, and everything was covered in mud, but amazingly, most things had little damage. You’ve picked one of my two favorites Sue. I absolutely loved Karma. It was outstanding, and what a artful representation of an idea. ~James

    • Thanks Jo. I enjoyed the Casals and Karma as well. Monkeys was also unique and like nothing I’d ever seen. This really is a fabulous exhibit, probably the best I’ve seen. ~James

  2. I had no idea this park had been underwater, though it makes sense. My daughter lives in NOLA and I’m hoping to visit this summer. I will put this on the top of my list to see, thanks!

    • Don’t miss this exhibit Martha. In addition to great art, the garden is beautiful as well. There is a streetcar that goes up to City Park, and the end of the line is right across the street from the art museum. The streetcar ride is lots of fun as well. ~James

  3. Most of my dad’s side of the family is from New Orleans and my grandfather used to drive the trolley’s then, later, the city buses. I haven’t been back in many years but would love to visit the sculpture garden. I was never a huge fan of this type of art until recently. Glad you are having such a wonderful time!

  4. Thanks for taking us on a visit of a city I’ve always wanted to go to. After Katrina I wondered if it could actually be salvaged and maybe I had lost my chance forever. It appears I was happily wrong!
    I love art in unexpected places and these outdoor sculptures are amazing. I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite but it would have to be Karma. That was a wow!

    • Thanks Joanne. We lived in New Orleans pre-Katrina, and after visiting a couple of times post-Katrina, I can say that the city will never be the same. But, post-Katrina New Orleans is still a wonderful, fun, and interesting place. It would be a great place to thaw out. And BTW, Karma is far and away my favorite piece as well. ~James

  5. Love that you started with “Blue Dog” art. He is my favorite! Love New Orleans and now I have to visit garden next time! I’ve blogged mostly about the Quarter and their awesome World War II museum. Thanks for introducing me to another reason we love New Orleans.

    • Thanks Dixie. It’s hard to venture outside the Quarter, but if you need a good reason, the NOMA Sculpture Garden is it. Make sure to catch it on your next visit (Take the streetcar from Canal Street). And FYI, there’s a super neat Rodrigue gallery in the Quarter at 730 Royal Street. ~James

    • Thanks Marie. I agree with you that the sculptures were all outstanding, but for me, Karma was also the clear winner. I’ve truly never seen anything like it, and I admire the artist’s vision and skill. ~James

  6. Beautiful pictures. I’m going to go since we are Heading to NOLA this weekend for Jazzfest. It’s one of our favorites cities in the world! Be sure to get some crawfish monica while your there or Willie Mae’s friend chicken!

    • This will be a nice, calm change from Jazzfest Anne, and it really is wonderful. Also, after a purse-draining festival, you’ll be pleased to hear that the sculpture garden is free (not the museum). Take the City Park streetcar and the last stop is directly across the street from the Museum and Garden. Have a great Jazzfest and enjoy the garden. ~James

    • Erin, thanks very much for your kind words. Our biggest rewards from travel are seeing and experiencing new things, and sharing these adventures with appreciative people like you. ~James

  7. I have to say, you seem much more colorful than your friend James! 😉 I think my favorite sculptures are 1) Karma, 2) Overflow, and 3) Monkeys.

    • We’re like minds LuAnn. These are my top 3 as well, but I would reverse Monkeys and Overflow. Both are unique concepts and outstanding pieces, but for me, Monkeys is the more evocative of the two. BTW, how is the volunteering going? ~James

      • We just got here and it has not stopped raining, with flash flood warnings all around the area. We have orientation tomorrow so more to come.

  8. I’ve been to new Orleans many times, but never to this artful sculpture garden. Fantastic! Love the opening shot of Blue Dog by a Louisiana artist and Karma — as so many other readers do also. I’m putting this on my list of must-see places. Thanks.

    • Definitely see the garden on your next trip Rusha. As I’ve said to others, it’s fun to take the City Park streetcar, and the Museum and Garden are right across the street. Also, FYI, the garden is free. ~James

    • I haven’t visited many sculpture gardens Peggy, but the ones I’ve visited are memorable. I think that my first was the Rodin Museum in Paris, which I can still picture in my mind. For me, there’s something about sculptures exhibited outdoors that makes them easier and more fun to view. ~James

  9. Pingback: Henry Moore sculpture exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

    • Thanks so much for the link to our post on the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden. The Henry Moore sculpture is one of their finest pieces, and is the first thing you see when you walk into the gates. ~James

  10. Not only is it great that you have taken time to enjoy art in the Sculpture Garden, but also that these works endured the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina. I hope these works and others like them endure for centuries beyond our lives. Art like this gives a sense of permanence to life which otherwise feels at times to be fleeting. ‘Karma’ and ‘Overflow’ were my favorites of those you shared. I look forward to seeing them in person some day. – Mike

    • If you get down NOLA way don’t miss the Sculpture Garden Mike. It’s world class art in a beautiful setting, and I haven’t enjoyed an exhibit so much in a long time. Karma is my favorite, and Overflow is close behind. I must admit that I can’t always appreciate the nuances of Modern Art, but these works were all just a pleasure to look at. And the Katrina story made it even better. ~James

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