Rite of Spring

New sculptures arrive before the summer rush at LongHouse Reserve’s open-air garden-cum-gallery
Dale Chihuly's "Cobalt Reeds" demonstrates that blown glass can be an art form. The artist donated it in 2003. LongHouse Photo

When founding LongHouse Reserve, Jack Lenor Larsen decided early on that outdoor sculpture would be as integral to it as the gardens and landscaping. Matko Tomicic, the reserve’s executive director, explained: “When Jack started this, he realized that no matter how good the gardens are by themselves, they are not going to be a draw to get you to come back and visit.” With 12,000 visitors in fewer than six months each year, it’s clear the decision was a canny one.

Another decision was to borrow, not purchase,  sculpture. “Although this is 16 acres,” Mr. Tomicic said, “we can fill this up with sculpture in no time. If you own it all, you’re stuck with it.” With virtually all the work on loan, some of it permanently, the reserve retains the flexibility to move a piece, or request its removal. Not that any artwork lands on the property without the enthusiastic approval of its arts committee, but one way to refresh the installations is to move or replace existing pieces.

Mr. Tomicic pointed out that the policy also works to the artists’ advantage. “If it’s a gift, the artist has no control, and we can do anything we want with it. We probably wouldn’t, but who knows what another director would want to do? He or she might prefer Jeff Koons to Sol LeWitt. And for many artists, if a piece leaves here without selling, it goes into storage, and they have to pay for that. So if we like it, they might as well leave it here.”

Even iconic pieces — Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome,” Willem de Kooning’s “Reclining Figure,” and Yoko Ono’s “Play It By Trust,” her massive marble chess set — are on loan. Some of the works, such as Kiki Smith’s “Women With Sheep (Three Women, Three Sheep)” or Mariyo Yagi’s “NAWA Axis for Peace,” first came to the property as part of summer exhibitions.

In addition, LongHouse receives many proposals for temporary shows. “We have an arts committee that meets three or four times a year,” Mr. Tomicic said. “We decide what we can afford and what would look good. Members of the committee also look around and see what might work. We discuss it, and that’s how it happens.”

Mr. Larsen makes most of the installation decisions. Moving pieces freshens both the work and the landscape. Mr. Tomicic called the Sand Dune Garden, the first encountered by visitors, his favorite. “I don’t remember any installation that we put here on the dunes that didn’t work.”

Bryan Hunt’s sculpture “Conductor II” was first put up in front of the house and then in the Secret Garden before being moved to the dunes. “We like it here, so it will be very hard to move it. This is the main approach, and you see this organic shape playing off the trees.”

In addition to Mr. Hunt’s sculpture, the dunes are home to Toshiko Takaezu’s “The Gateway Bell.” Ms. Takaezu, a master potter who was a close friend of Mr. Larsen, is represented by 10 pieces, several of which were gifts to LongHouse’s collection. A memorial exhibition of her work from various private collections was held after her death in 2011.

Sculpture by eight artists will be added to the gardens this season: Larry Rivers’s “Legs,” Neil Noland’s “Green RE: Genesis/Lake Eden/Black Mountain,” George Rickey’s “Six Lines in a T II,” Enrique Martinez Celaya’s “The Invisible,” Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s “The Arch of Life,” Marko Remec’s “Would That I Wish For (Tall Totem),” and six of Jun Kaneko’s untitled ceramic dangos. (Dango is a Japanese word for a kind of steamed dumpling, but the designation refers less to the elongated shapes than to the way the artist shapes his materials.)

The additions reflect the eclectic taste of Mr. Larsen and the arts committee, ranging from the Pop sensibility of Mr. Rivers to the kinetic gracefulness of Mr. Rickey to the clenched human figure in Mr. Celaya’s work to Mr. Remec’s mirror-covered telephone pole. Where each of such a diverse selection of works will be installed remains to be seen, but each is certain to continue the site’s ever-evolving dialogue between art and the landscape.

The bronze Kiki Smith woman and sheep reflect her exploration of the human body and its relationship to the animal and natural worlds.
Willem de Kooning's bronze "Reclining Figure," above, is one of 13 originally modeled in clay.
Eric Fischl's "Tumbling Woman" was commissioned to commemorate 9/11. The artist has said the sculpture "feels like a dream in which somebody is floating."LongHouse Photo
The 25 identical figures are Yue Minjun's “Chinese Contemporary Warriors.” In bronze, they bear enigmatic, attenuated smiles, a signature element of his work.
Yoko Ono’s “Play It By Trust” is an interactive chessboard, designed with all-white pieces as a metaphor for the futility of war.LongHouse photo
More than 50 people helped Mariyo Yagi create “NAWA Axis for Peace.” The artist says it “symbolically binds a wide range of persons, transcending all boundaries, ages, and differences in backgrounds.”LongHouse photo
Lynda Benglis’s “Migrating Pedmarks” was made during a period when she was thinking about fountains and water flow.LongHouse photo
Above left: Sol LeWitt’s “Irregular Progression, High #7” is from his late career. Above right: Takashi Soga uses an ingenious method of counterbalances to create monumental kinetic pieces, which seem to defy gravity and move without visual support. This one is "Eye of the Ring."LongHouse photos