Sculpture has most often been made to occupy open areas, in civic squares and in gardens, or to adorn the facades of buildings or mark sacred sites. The grounds that lie between the National Gallery of Australia and the shores of Lake Burley Griffin were configured to display the Gallery's extensive collection of sculpture.
This garden was planned and planted 22 years ago. Harry Howard and Associates and James Mollison, the first Director, designed this garden to complement the building. The diagonal of the main pathway and the floor plan of the garden repeats the triangular architecture of the main building.
Displayed in outside rooms are 26 sculptures made by International and Australian artists. Most of the sculptures were bought and placed in the garden during the early 1980s and reflect the abstract, industrial aesthetic of that time, however there are some works that are more evocative, for example the fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya and the Pukamani burial poles nearby.
The plants are native to Australia and were selected for their tolerance of Canberra's severe winter conditions and long hot dry summers. The seasons of the year form the main design structure with the Winter garden close to the building with warm winter slate and winter flowering acacias and the earliest figurative works of art. The Summer garden is the shady area beneath the Casuarinas and near the marsh pond. The Spring garden, full of spring flowering Grevilleas and Acacias is closer to the lake. The Autumn garden was never fully realised.
Fog sculpture is in operation 12.30–2.00 pm daily
Fujiko Nakaya Fog sculpture 1976, Robert Stackhouse On the beach again 1984, Bert Flugelman Cones 1982