Sculpture parks are always a roadside-attraction lover’s goldmine as they are often packed with weird and wonderful statues from a variety of artists around the world. As such, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, Iowa did not disappoint.
The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a 4.4 acre park located in downtown Des Moines. It is part of the Des Moines Art Center and opened in 2009. It opened with 24 world-class sculptures and continues to grow. In 2019, there were 27 sculptures in the park.
Explore a sample of the sculptures below and learn more about what you’ll find at the sculpture garden on their website.
Moonrise, east. january & Moonrise, east. august
Artist Ugo Rondinone created twelve Moonrise sculptures, one for every month of the year, to represent the relationship between humans and the moon. Two of these, January and August, are on display in Des Moines.
This giant figure is made from a scrambling of white letters. The artist, Jaume Plensa used letters that on their own mean little but together form powerful words as a metaphor for human nature.
Untitled (Three Dancing Figures, version C)
This 1989 Keith Haring piece displays three bright and energetic figures dancing in a circle.
Mark di Suvero’s 1987 piece “T8” is a giant red sculpture wade from steel crossed I-beams. As you wander the park and see it from different vantage points the art changes shape.
Yoshitomo Nara’s 2010 sculpture White Ghost depicts a glossy fiberglass child on a stone base.
Yayoi Kusama’s 2014 sculpture “Pumpkin” looks like a pumpkin. The dot work on the metal squash is a trademark of the artist and represents infinity, repetition, and obsession. The gourd itself represents comfort, familiarity, and whimsy.
LOVE is the iconic artwork by artist Robert Indiana. This is one of many editions of this signature piece found around the world.
Back of Snowman (White and Black)
Artist Gary Hume presents here two glossy sculptures titles “Back of Snowman” in both black and white. The pieces are playful and interactive as there is no front to the snowman so as you walk around, there is no discernible front of back.
For “Ancient Forest” artist Deborah Butterfield used found materials to assemble a horse.
Thinker on a Rock
In “Thinker on a Rock” artist Barry Flanagan does a play on Rodin’s “Thinker” replacing man with rabbit.
Artist Louise Bourgeois saw spiders as representing her mother, a weaver who was also sick. The arachnid reflected her fragility and strength in one.
The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park isn’t the only thing to check out in downtown Des Moines. Be sure to see other Iowa roadside attractions and murals like Plantoir (the giant garden trowel) and the Cheers from Des Moines mural, all just down the block from the park!
The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Address: 1330 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa
Hours: Sunrise to midnight