In 1992, sculptor and Johnson & Johnson heir John Seward Johnson II decided to share his passion for the art of sculpture with the world by opening an expansive outdoor sculpture garden in Hamilton, New Jersey. Johnson’s sculpture garden—known as Grounds for Sculpture—was designed to be an accessible location where people from all walks of life could learn to appreciate contemporary art. Johnson added several of his own pieces to the Grounds for Sculpture collection. Johnson’s sculptures feature three-dimensional recreations of iconic paintings such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Johnson’s sculptures also depict routine interactions, such as two elderly women gabbing on a park bench.
Grounds for Sculpture features every type of sculpture imaginable. Abstract sculptures constructed of steel, stone, and clay emerge from colorful flowerbeds. George Segal’s Depression Breadline offers a realistic bronze depiction of a group of forlorn men waiting in a breadline in the 1930s. Dana Stewart’s bronze Alien Beast stands at attention and prompts shivers of anxiety in those who walk by. In 2013, Seward Johnson’s enormous likeness of Marylin Monroe in her famous oops-my-skirt-is-blowing-up pose graced Grounds for Sculpture. In 2015, giant Marilyn returned to her permanent home in Palm Springs, California.
In addition to housing hundreds of sculptures, Grounds for Sculpture features over 2,000 types of trees, and several decorative gardens. Seward Johnson’s love of Monet prompted him to create a garden inspired by the beloved Impressionist’s paintings. Rat’s—the sculpture garden’s celebrated restaurant—offers a stunning view of Grounds for Sculpture’s Monet inspired gardens. Strolling Grounds for Sculpture is a surreal journey that showcases several lively periods of contemporary art. Wandering peacocks that regularly display their lovely plumage, life-like figures suspended in various poses, and a trio of sinister sculpted witches situated next to a sculpted cauldron that emits real steam add to Grounds for Sculpture’s otherworldly feel.