Barnsdall Art Park gets all the attention when it comes to art parks in town. They have movie screenings there and wine events and all sorts of fabulous, Metro accessible things. If I lived on the Westside, I’d be pretty cross that I couldn’t go there. The programming is attractive, yes, but an area in which you can just lounge in greens surrounded by a few art pieces? Is there any place? None come to mind. (Then again, our knowledge of the Westside is admittedly paltry.) While visiting the New Wight Gallery for the MFA exhibition, there was a giant Richard Serra piece across from it that was quite a surprise. We thought it was cool, popped into the show, and wandered back to our car only to notice sculptures were hidden all around us in this green space: there is an artsy sculpture garden tucked onto the Northeastern side of UCLA’s campus.
The little green space, large sculpture collection is the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden. This space is ran by the Hammer although it seems absolutely untouched since the mid-seventies. The garden started coming together in 1967 when the eleven works from David E. Bright’s estate were acquired. Franklin D. Murphy–UCLA’s Third Chancellor in the sixties–took this new area of land for the university and started filling it with art because he felt, “works of art are most thoroughly enjoyed when they are a part of daily life” and that they would have a positive influence on all around. Ralph D. Cornell was the landscape architect who helped to make the area particularly planned out and pleasant.
The garden now is relatively untouched from how it was then and embraces the areas small hills and pools of grass which are all spotted with large and small sculptures. When you walk around there, you may feel like there is just one or two pieces but very quickly you realize there are so many just poking around. There are works by Calder, Matisses, Miro, and so many more. Pieces from the mid-sixties through the late seventies have a bit of a monopoly on the area which is no surprise given that was when they were acquiring works. The standouts for us were George Rickey’s Two Lines Oblique Down (Variation III) (which are always a delight to encounter), David Smith’s sun catching Cubi XX, and George Tsutakawa’s attracting fountain piece Obos 69. The Serra is also beautiful but had a few peace signs and hearts drawn onto it (which feel like kinder additions than what that jackass did to a Rothko last month).
We were hanging out in this park on a Saturday at 2PM-ish and it was absolutely delightful. No one was really there and you are totally surrounded by sixties style everything with the exception of the modern Broad building. This would be a great place to picnic or wander through or hang out killing time before you go to something pre or post-UCLA visit. The garden is located just off of Sunset and Hilgard. You should also stop by Fundamental on your way over and grab some delicious sandwiches to snack on, too. Why not do that this weekend? You can also catch the MFA exhibition, too.