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 visual proof of these polar opposites. 

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 sculptures standing in 6 feet of salt water for three weeks 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 when Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans in 2005, this is precisely what happened. Destruction was city-wide, and when the storm surge overtopped the Lake Ponchartrain levees near the museum, the unprotected masterpieces were inundated.

Henry Moore
“Reclining Mother and Child” by Henry Moore 1973
Karma by Do-Ho Suh 2011
“Karma” by Do-Ho Suh 2011

And while a few sculptures were added post-Katrina, it’s hard to imagine how the pre-storm works survived the flood without damage. But survive they did. 

Monkeys 1
“Monkeys” by Rona Pondick 1998-2001

NOMA’s sculpture garden is in the leafy City Park neighborhood and its eclectic collection of art from world-renowned masters such as Renoir, Rodin, and Magritte make an excellent change of pace from the city’s more … ahem … traditional diversions.

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

When disaster strikes art isn’t immune, but considering its history, it certainly lifts the spirit to see this world-class exhibit. So if you visit New Orleans, don’t miss this endearing symbol of survival and rebirth. 

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

Last updated March 2, 2020

Three figures
“Three Figures and Four Benches” by George Segal 1979

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

13 thoughts

    1. Amy, in addition to the wonderful art, it’s a part of City Park, so the gardens are pleasant. And to add to the romance, it’s at the end of a streetcar line, so you can get there the way locals do. I hope you can make it. ~James

  1. What a wonderful collection and amazing survival story. I particularly love the Henry Moore sculpture and it brought back memories of the Henry Moore garden we visited years back in Kansas City. Wonderful story and terrific photos of all the sculptures.


    1. Peta, with all its rain, heat, and humidity, New Orleans is a very green place, so this garden is lush. But, given the human suffering and needs after Katrina, I’m sure that things like art fell very low on the priority list. It’s a real testament to the city’s resilience that the art and garden were rescued and rebuilt ~James

    1. Laura, in addition to the creative side, materials have to be a part of the planning. You may have noticed that most of the art was bronze, stone, or stainless steel – that can’t be an accident. ~James

    1. Bea, I really like Overflow, but I must admit that my fave is Karma. A sculpture that demonstrates the concept of infinity is fabulous. BTW, I read with interest your post on Rome in the days of Corona. It’s good stuff, and may be a preview of what we can expect in the US – not sure if I should be relieved or worried. ~James

  2. I recall some of these photos from your previous post. As fascinating now as they were then. Incredible that they could withstand the force of Katrina. We were to New Orleans pre-hurricane. I recall the stiff drinks, delicious food and music on every street corner. Should we visit again i will definitely be seeking out the art for quiet diversion.

    1. Hidy Ho Sue. I hope that you, Dave, and the Fam are sheltering in place and doing well. I read your post on travel in these uncertain days, and agree with all your points. We were a few weeks from a big trip ourselves and labored through the angst before finally cancelling a few days ago – bummer. This too shall pass, and we both know you can’t keep a serious traveler down. All the best. ~James

  3. I loved this! Not only the photos of the great sculptures, but your reminder that great art endures….which says to me that we can too. Thanks for a message of hope in these depressing times!

    1. Thanks Ann. We have always found the folks of New Orleans to be amazingly resilient and positive in the face of adversity. They are an inspiring role model for all of us. ~Terri

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