Although the Johnson remains temporarily closed to the public, there is a wide range of outdoor art to be discovered across Cornell’s Ithaca campus. Seven of these works are part of the Museum’s permanent collection.

Last year, Ellen Avril, the Johnson’s chief curator and curator of Asian art, served as co-chair of the Committee on Outdoor Art at Cornell (COAC). In an interview with Cornell Alumni Magazine, she reflected on the unique pleasures of art outside: “When you encounter outdoor sculpture, it’s a different way of engaging with art; when you go to a museum you’re seeking it out, but encountering outdoor sculpture can be an unexpected experience. It ranges from people who don’t notice anything and walk right by, to those who say, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ and want to find out more.”

The Johnson’s signature work of outdoor art sculpts with light for a constantly changing experience. Cosmos debuted at the Museum in 2012 and was named in homage to Cornell astronomy professor Carl Sagan (1934–1996). Twelve thousand light-emitting diodes (LEDs) move in ever-shifting patterns created by artist Leo Villareal (American, born 1967). The ceiling of the Museum’s Mallin Sculpture Court was selected for its visibility not only on campus but also from the city of Ithaca. Cosmos is visible day and night, even when the Museum is closed.

Other well-known outdoor sculptures date back to before the Johnson Museum was even built. Homage to My Father and the Spirit (1969) was commissioned for Cornell by Tom Leavitt, the director who bridged the transition from the A. D. White Museum to the opening of the Johnson in 1973. The steel sculpture by Melvin Edwards (American, born 1937) is a tribute to the encouragement his father gave him as he developed into a mature artist. Now located on Appel Commons off Cradit Farm Drive, it was previously installed on the Museum’s south lawn (shown, ca. 1998). Double Variation (1983–84) by Anthony Caro (British, 1924–2013) now stands in that place on the slope next to the Museum.

Two other sculptures that visitors may recall as installed on Museum grounds have also found different homes on campus. Richard Evans, 2nd, Number III (1972) by Daniel Ben-Shmuel Barrett (Irish, 1927–2003) was acquired by the Museum in 1990 and stood for many years on the Museum’s north lawn (shown, ca. 1990).

Ahead of the construction of the 2011 wing building, the work was moved to Triphammer Road near Jessup Field, where it can be seen today.



Remembrance (1988) by David Stromeyer (American, born 1946), a 1996 gift to the Museum, was commissioned by Alpha Epsilon Pi brothers in memory of fellow member Joseph Brender, Class of 1955, a US Navy pilot who was lost at sea in 1958. It was previously installed at the Museum’s main entrance (shown, in 1999) and is now located off Hoy Road across from Rhodes Hall.


Since 1989, Herakles in Ithaka I (1980–81) has stood between Statler Hall and Uris Hall. It was made by Jason Seley (American, 1919–1983), Class of 1940, Professor of Art, and Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. An 11-foot, 3-inch tall interpretation of the Farnese Hercules by Hendrick Goltzius, Seley gave his chrome and steel sculpture to the Johnson shortly before his death.

Presidential Councillor Dr. Robert T. Blakely III, Class of 1963, MBA 1965, and his wife, Pinky Keehner, generously supported a restoration effort in 2016. Blakely had studied sculpture with Seley as an undergraduate. The Jason and Clara Seley Sculpture Court, a short distance from the Johnson Museum behind Sibley Hall, has been home to three other Seley works since 2018.

Finally, and furthest afield, is Sapsucker Cairn (1995–2008) on the Hoyt-Pileated Trail in Sapsucker Woods, part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Andy Goldsworthy (British, born 1956) created the work as a final component to his eight years as an A. D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell. Goldsworthy made several other works while in Ithaca, ranging from installations in Fall Creek Gorge and at the Johnson in 1999 to an installation still on view today at Cornell Botanic Gardens.

Please note that campus visitors are currently prohibited from entering any campus facility. Walking around Cornell’s campus is permitted. However, all employees, students and visitors are required to have a mask on their person when outdoors on campus and to put on their face covering or mask when it is NOT feasible to maintain physical distancing measures (i.e., at least six feet of separation between others).