Although Des Moines’ 4.4-acre John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park isn’t the largest of its kind, it is densely packed with high-quality works from 21 internationally acclaimed modern and contemporary artists. Situated among thoughtfully constructed hills and berms that make the downtown park feel larger than it actually is, 27 sculptures represent major styles including minimalism, conceptualism and abstract expressionism. The collection is the largest public gift of art in Iowa history, bequeathed by notable collectors and philanthropists John and Mary Pappajohn.
Though the collection is valued at an estimated $40 million, there are no fences or guards with whistles to protect it. Guests are expected to respect the art and not touch, with one exception: The Seating for Eight functional sculpture is fair game for picnics, coffees and impromptu meetings.
Des Moines Art Center docents lead guided group tours of the park ($2 per adult with a 10-person minimum) during warm-weather months, though it’s easy enough to enjoy a self-guided tour using posted descriptions and information about the artists on the center’s brochure.