Francesca Cigola’s new guide to Sculpture parks and gardens in the U.S. (scheduled for publication this June) overlaps a bit with the ISC’s own 2008 Landscapes for Art: Contemporary Sculpture Parks, but the content and strategy of the two books is very different. Art Parks is a genuine guidebook (with a portable but sturdy “flexibind” cover), though arranged thematically more than geographically, with generous photos and short descriptions of each park. Landscapes for Art was not intended to be a guidebook, but instead an exploration of the history and significance of the sculpture park “movement,” told in kaleidoscopic form in 48 short articles that focus on individual parks around the world or tendencies among the parks that emphasize modern and contemporary art.
So the two books complement one another and there’s no conflict for me (one of the editors of Landscapes for Art) reviewing and recommending Art Parks (and recommending it is indeed what I have in mind). The primary sections of the book are “Leisure Spaces,” “Learning Spaces,” “Collectors’ Spaces,” and a group of “Additional Parks” at the end. Each of the sections is divided into regions, with color-coded tabs. Some ofo the categories (especially the first two) overlap, but it’s particularly helpful to have the Collectors’ Spaces plainly identified, since their mission (and accessibility) can be quite different from the museums and arts organizations represented in the first two categories.
Fifty-seven locations are covered in the book (with 46 more covered in the Additional Parks section): 103 in all, a number that gives a hint of the growth of the field over the past quarter century (and these are just U.S. parks). Cigola’s introduction is helpful, and the short articles on each park are not just bullet-points: each is a small essay on the history and mission of the park, with a summary at the bottom of the page (in small type) of the address, contact, information, and artists represented. The format achieves a nice balance between a discussion, a list of information, and generous color photographs of representative work.
No single volume can be comprehensive about such a dynamic field, but Art Parks is a significant accomplishment.