When the expanded Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden opens May 15, it will do more than just double the footprint of the existing garden behind the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.

The addition of 26 sculptures to the 64 already on display will help expand the artistic scope of the popular outdoor attraction into the 21st century.

The original 5-acre garden, which opened in 2003, will be connected to a new 6.5-acre space, which will include two commissioned pieces.

A glass bridge created by Elyn Zimmerman has an embedded pattern inspired by mid-century maps by cartographer Harold Fisk that showed how the Mississippi River and its tributaries have shifted course over the centuries.

The second commissioned work is a 60-foot mosaic wall by artist Teresita Fernández that will line the expansion’s main courtyard.

While the original sculpture garden features pieces primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries, NOMA Director Susan Taylor said donors Sydney and Walda Besthoff wanted to focus on contemporary pieces as they and NOMA began planning the space more than four years ago.

She said the Besthoffs scoured galleries and studios to find emerging artists, established artists working in new ways and pieces that exemplified a particular artist’s most significant works.

Their desire, she said, was “to make an outdoor experience that would be approachable, understandable and engaging.”

“We would not have done this without them,” she said of the expansion, which broke ground in December 2017.


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NOMA is not saying how much the sculptures for the expansion cost.

Taylor said highlights of the expansion include works by Frank Stella, Tony Cragg and Ursula Van Rydingsvard.

Another unique aspect of the expansion is that most of it was designed after the pieces were identified, allowing the landscape architects and engineers to create the surrounding context with particular sculptures in mind, Taylor said.

“We worked very closely with the landscape architects to find the right place for certain works, and they would design the landscape accordingly,” she said.

The new space also includes a walkway that cuts through the lagoon almost flush with the surface of the water, passing under Roosevelt Mall, as visitors wind their way through the exhibit.

Taylor said NOMA’s other major goal with the expansion was to broaden the garden’s appeal and find new ways to engage the public, which it did with a new amphitheater and sculpture pavilion.

The amphitheater will open the space for music, film, dance and theater programs, while the pavilion will allow NOMA to bring to a larger audience some indoor pieces that would otherwise be available only inside the museum to members and paying visitors.

Editor's note: This story was changed on Feb. 9 to correct an error in which the glass bridge was said to connect the expansion with the original sculpture garden.


Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.