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Garden of Illusions: The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Molly Donovan, assistant curator of modern and contemporary art, National Gallery of Art. A month after the dedication of the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden on May 23, 1999, Molly Donovan discusses the grandeur and significance of its two components: the garden and the sculptures. In this lecture recorded on June 27, 1999, Donovan shares the history of the 6.1-acre space, from Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant's 1791 plan for Washington, DC, up to its 20th-century realization as the Gallery's Sculpture Garden. On April 22, 1791, while touring the grounds of the Potomac Valley, L'Enfant stated that "nothing can be more admirably adapted for the purpose [for the federal city]; nature has done much for it, and with the aid of art it will become the wonder of the world." L'Enfant's plan for a public, landscaped garden- originally known as L'Enfant Square- was based on the grounds at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, France. A refuge from the linear expanse of the National Mall, the Gallery's Sculpture Garden features meandering paths, a fountain, and contemporary art. In this way, two hundred years later, the National Gallery of Art and Laurie D. Olin of Olin Partnership, the garden's architect, achieved L'Enfant's original vision of showcasing both natural beauty and artistic achievement.