It was a sunny Sunday morning, and I was strolling through a peaceful garden. This was the Billy Rose Art Garden, in the grounds of Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. The Museum has some impressive exhibits, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and extensive collections of art and archaeology. But the Scrolls would have to wait for another time: I was here for the sculpture.
Walking Through the Billy Rose Art Garden
I had the garden almost to myself. The sounds of birdsong and distant church bells competed for my attention. The paths were lined with fragrant plants. And there were sculptures everywhere, in perfect harmony with their surroundings.
Completed in 1965, the Billy Rose Art Garden was the work of Isamu Noguchi, an American sculptor. He followed the principles of Zen design, using a variety of different materials such as concrete, gravel and water, and featuring mostly native plants. The garden is set on a steep hillside, so that panoramic views of the city are incorporated into the landscape.
Sculptures Old and New
Some of the sculptures are by well known artists. As you enter the garden you are greeted by a statue of Adam by Auguste Rodin. Later on, a sculpture by Henry Moore poses against the city skyline. But others are more modern, often by contemporary Israeli sculptors. There is a giant stainless steel apple core, and the appropriately named “Turning the World Upside Down”, which reflects and inverts its surroundings.
The modern sculptures have not always been admired by everyone. It is said that Billy Rose, the American showman who founded and gave his name to the garden, commented that they should be “melted down for bullets”! Modern visitors might well disagree. For myself, I enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new, and the pleasure of turning every corner to find something different.