6 places to see Andy Goldsworthy’s art in the US

Just as Monet had his haystacks and water lilies, sculpture artist Andy Goldsworthy—whose work features prominently from San Francisco’s Presidio to New York’s Storm King—has kerns and walls. Scottish word (recently gone global thanks to a foreigner), Cairns have been used since prehistoric times from South America to Europe to designate a landmark, designate a monument, or mark a grave. And we all know what a wall is, but one of Goldsworthy’s latest works, A walking wall (2019), added something unexpected to a stone wall: movement.

Born in the United Kingdom in 1956, Goldsworthy began by working alone in nature and making ephemeral sculptures from materials at hand: sticks, ice, leaves. The documentary Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldworthy Working with Time (2001) shows some of his early works. He has since moved on to commissioned, permanent works around the world, often using small teams of skilled craftsmen to handle the rocks used in his art.

Goldworthy’s work is distinctive, sculptural and site-specific. He often composes his works on a large scale, using local materials, in an intriguing combination of the natural and the man-made. According to the artist, “If you had to describe my work in one word, it would be ‘time’. But content and context are equally important. Unlike a painting or photograph, you have to walk around these sculptures to understand them. Time, place, material and weather play a role in his works. And you may find yourself appreciating how a wall can be joyful rather than dividing, and the majesty of old trees.

During his more than 50-year career, Goldsworthy has created numerous memorable public works around the world, including in the United States. Not surprisingly, New York and California have several of his artworks, but you might not expect to come across his work in Des Moines, Iowa, or Kansas City, Missouri. An added advantage is to visit the following sites: Most are located near art museums. Here are six places in the US where you can see Goldworthy sculptures.

Spanning 500 acres, the Storm King Art Center is home to the largest collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the country.

Photo by Christian Purple/Shutterstock

1. The Storm King’s Wall

  • Where: New Windsor, New York
  • When: Open daily from 10:00 to 17:30 (until 19:30 on Fridays and Saturdays); closed Tuesday
  • Visit: Tickets for Storm King Art Center start at $23, including parking

Goldsworthy’s first permanent work commissioned by a US museum was The Storm King’s Wall (1997), located at the Storm King Art Center, which is about an hour’s drive north of New York. Originally planned to be 750 feet, the serpentine wall was extended through a forest and across a lake—it now reaches more than 2,200 feet using 1,500 tons of fieldstone. The practical wall features straight lines. This playful wall conforms to the setting through which it passes – a meandering wall and a precursor to the ‘walking’ wall that Goldsworthy would later create. As is usual in his works of stacked stones, no mortar was used. In 2010, Goldsworthy and his team of British stonemasons returned to build a second, shorter wall comprising 15 stones.

A three-hour drive west of Storm King, you can see an early Goldsworthy cairn at Cornell University. Also on the Cornell Botanical Gardens campus is the Goldworthy Holocaust Memorial, originally created as part of his A garden of stones, in New York, for the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Both works depict trees growing out of stones.

Three Cairns Andy Goldsworthy.jpg

Goldworthy Three Cairns is ambitious in its scale: it covers the whole country.

Photo by Jonathan P. Ellgen/Flickr

2. Three Cairns

  • Where: Des Moines, Iowa
  • When: Open every day except Monday; Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Visit: The Des Moines Center for the Arts and the adjacent Sculpture Park are free

Goldsworthy’s work in Des Moines is the middle part of a wide spread Three Cairns, the largest project he undertook in the Western Hemisphere. The East Coast cairn was built first, beginning in late 2001, outside the Neuberger Museum of Art on the SUNY Purchase campus. You’ll find the West Coast cairn near the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, California. But the Midwest was the original inspiration for the work, specifically its ancient geological connection to the East and West Coasts. The Iowa limestone used in the piece is so old that it contains ocean creatures—all three cores use this rough-hewn Iowa limestone—formed into an egg-like structure with hand-laid dry stone. Unlike coastal cairns, this one has three stone walls with an ovoid recess, an echo of its origins.

This middle stone is near the first Des Moines Art Center building (1948), designed by architect Eliel Saarinen (father of Eero Saarinen). Clad in rough-hewn limestone, Saarinen’s design makes the most of its setting, indoors and out. (The other two buildings in the art center are by Pritzker Prize winners IM Pei and Richard Meier.)

3. Walking wall

  • Where: Kansas City, Missouri
  • When: Open Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 (until 21:00 on Friday)
  • Visit: Free, but visitors must book timed entry tickets in advance

One of Goldsworthy’s latest works is A walking wall at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Built and deliberately disassembled and rebuilt in 2019, it has been moving, month after month, covering a third of a mile, crossing and blocking a four-lane city road in the process. In an interview with PBS, he explained that he hoped viewers would see “how [things] decay and how they change. The New York Times announced that it was a “slow-motion performance.” It now sits motionless in the museum’s sculpture garden. Among the four dry stone wall builders involved in the construction/deconstruction was Gordon Wilton, 72, of Derbyshire, who helped build Goldsworthy’s original American Wall in 1997, two of about five dozen projects he did with Goldworthy . Many members of Goldworthy’s construction teams have worked on numerous projects with him.

Andy Goldworthy Stone River

This 320-foot-long sculpture is on the Stanford University campus.

4. Stone river

  • Where: Stanford, California
  • When: Anytime for Stone river; The Cantor is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m
  • Visit: Free of charge

Another astonishing wall-like work by Goldsworthy winds across the Stanford University campus outside the Cantor Museum of Art. According to Goldsworthy, the 320-foot-long sandstone sculpture is as light as stone, changing its appearance during the day as the sun crosses the sky. It is set in a trough that suggests an archaeological dig, and rises in waves from a four-foot-wide base that tapers as it rises. Triangular coping stones that top the wandering “river” weigh up to 50 pounds. Stone river features the same golden sandstone, some 6,500 stones used in many of the university’s original buildings—literally. It uses sandstone blocks that were piled up from campus buildings damaged during the earthquakes of 1906 and 1989. The serpentine work may remind you of another “natural” problem in California: water scarcity.

Roof Andy Goldworthy

The dome shapes of the figures that consist Roof provide a contrast to other famous domes in the DC area.

Photo by anarchivist/Flickr

5. Roof

  • Where: Washington
  • When: Open daily from 10am to 5pm
  • Visit: Free of charge

At the National Gallery of Art in 2005, Goldsworthy installed Roof, which consists of nine slate domes. These hollow piles are 27 feet in diameter with a 2-foot opening in the center: the gallery describes them as black holes. It’s an intriguing contrast in a city with such famous domed roofs as the US Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial. Despite its name, Roof is in the ground floor garden area of ​​the east wing of the gallery. This roof – with holes in it on the ground – is one of the largest sculptures commissioned by the National Gallery, stretching 139 feet. As with many of his sculptures, it’s hard to miss. The slate he used came from the same mine in Virginia used for the roofs of Ford’s Theater and the Smithsonian Castle. The artist told NPR, “The main tension of a lot of my art is to try to look past the appearance of things. Inevitably, one way to get under the surface is to put a hole, a window into what lies beneath.

Andy Goldsworthy Wood Line

Andy Goldworthy Wooden line wandering along a path in the Presidio.

Photo by Frankie WO/Shutterstock

6. Spire and Wood Line

  • Where: San Francisco, California
  • When: Outdoor (daytime hours are best)
  • Visit: Free of charge

As much of Goldsworthy’s work is set outdoors, the way things change over time is a subject he is interested in. He said, “Movement, change, light, growth and decay are the lifeblood of nature, the energies I try to tap through my work.” These qualities are especially evident when you walk Spire and together Wooden line.

San Francisco’s Presidio, a former US Army post that is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, has the largest collection of his work in a public place in the country, four installations. Spire, built in 2008, was inspired by the Presidio’s forest and the ongoing efforts to plant new trees there. It uses 37 cypress trunks and rises 100 feet. It underwent a drastic change in June 2020 by a bush fire, probably arson. today, Spire it still stands tall but charred, making an unintended comment on the epidemic of large wildfires that has torn through California in recent years.

The site for Wooden line dates back to the 19th century, when the army spread rows of eucalyptus trees with Monterey cypress trees near an old footpath known as Lovers’ Alley. However, the cypress did not thrive and left gaps. Wooden line runs for about 1,200 feet, zigzagging along the forest floor, turning one of these gaps into a walkable sculpture surrounded by towering trees. The layout encourages a leisurely pace between two “walls” of tall eucalyptus, an oasis in a densely populated city where land is so scarce that there is only one cemetery (a military one, also in the Presidio).

His other two works at the Presidio, Earth wall and Falling on a tree, are indoors, much smaller and less accessible, but also free to visit. During a weekend stroll along a three-mile chain of trails, you can visit all four works, accompanied by scenic views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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