William T. Wiley, To Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, Artist, Tool and Die Maker’, 1968, stainless steel, 84 x 112 x 90 inches, Grounds For Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier, Original Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sabol, © Artist’s Estate; Credit: David Michael Howarth Photography

When J. Seward Johnson opened Grounds for Sculpture in 1992, his dream was to offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy art in a lovely natural setting. He certainly succeeded.

“There are around 300 sculptures on display year-round throughout Grounds for Sculpture’s 42 acres,” said Lauren Collalto at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. “Thirty-three sculptures by Seward Johnson are currently on view.”

Emilie Benes Brzezinski, Lintel, 1993, bronze, 128 x 117 x 28 inches, Grounds For Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier, © Artist or Artist’s Estate
Credit: David Michael Howarth Photography

Founded on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Grounds for Sculpture now includes a cafe, gift shop, six indoor galleries, and Rat’s Restaurant — named for the fascinating character in Kenneth Grahame’s beloved book, The Wind in the Willows.

“Audiences enjoy accessing our sculptures, art exhibitions and gardens in a relaxed setting,” Collalto said. “The goal is to make contemporary art accessible to all.”

Johnson began his career as an oil painter and later changed to sculpture. He is best known for sculptures that honor America. One of his most popular works is titled Unconditional Surrender and features a 25-foot sculpture of the famous Times Square V-J Day moment when a sailor kissed a nurse. Johnson died March 10, 2020. He was 89. 

The grounds are an excellent display venue for viewing and appreciating the outdoor sculptures.

“There’s an opportunity for a natural interplay between the sculptures and an ever-changing landscape, which includes both formal and informal design elements,” Collalto said.

As a garden and arboretum, Grounds for Sculpture features paved terraces, pergolas and courtyards, along with natural woodlands, ponds and groves of bamboo. Sculptures on display were created by both well-known and emerging contemporary artists. Group tours are offered for groups of 15 or more people. 

“There’s an opportunity to enjoy over 2,000 trees, which include over 100 species and cultivars,” Collalto said. “Visitors can come at any time of year and encounter art and nature, providing them with unique and exciting ways to engage with both in every season.”

Dining options are available at Rat’s Restaurant and Van Gogh Café. Group visit requests should be made at least two weeks in advance.

For more information, call 609-586-0616 or visit groundsforsculpture.org.

Article by Jackie Sheckler Finch