Artists turn Montana ranch into vast open-air sculpture and music centre

Tippet Rise Art Center is due to open in the Beartooth Mountains in June

by Gabriella Angeleti  |  26 April 2016
Artists turn Montana ranch into vast open-air sculpture and music centre
Ensamble Studio (Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa), Inverted Portal (2015). Photo: Andre Costantini
A new sculpture park opens to the public on 17 June on an 11,000-acre ranch in the Beartooth Mountains outside of Fishtail, Montana.

Seven works, some of them site-specific by Mark di Suvero, Patrick Dougherty, Stephen Talasnik and Ensamble Studio have been installed in the rugged canyons and mountain landscape. Another two will be in place in time for the opening, with more planned in coming years.

The works in situ include Di Suvero’s Beethoven’s Quartet, 2003, a steel sculpture that visitors can strike with a rubber mallet to produce varying sounds. It was bought from the artist by the owners of Tippet Rise, and had previously been on loan to Storm King Art Center in New York. When the artist travelled to the park to supervise the piece’s installation, he proposed that the centre also install Proverb, 2002, a 60-foot tall sculpture with a metronome-like pendulum that formerly stood behind the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas. It was dismantled last year when the space was sold to developers. Now it stands at the bottom of the park’s Box Canyon, a popular spot for sheep and cattle in summer.

Each sculpture is one to two miles away from its neighbour, allowing “the mountain ranges to frame the art so that, all of a sudden, everything becomes art”, says the centre’s director Alban Bassuet. Visitors will hike to the sculptures, taking electric shuttles along the way for safety reasons and to preserve the pristine landscape.

Mark di Suvero, Proverb (2002). Photo by Andre Costantini

The New York-based artists Cathy and Peter Halstead bought the land in 2010 to “juxtapose art and nature, and to observe the interaction that this connection creates”, Bassuet says. The duo are trustees of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, a grant-making body named after Cathy’s late father, who became a billionaire through his promotion of Grey Goose vodka and Jägermeister. The park, which is called the Tippet Rise Art Center, is named in honour of Cathy’s mother.

Music recitals are planned for the centre’s inaugural season; these will take place in the centre’s two performance spaces, one outdoors, one indoor. Both have been designed by Bassuet who is an acoustics expert and venue designer. Alongside its music programme, the centre will provide educational programmes and residency programmes for artists, musicians and writers.

Mark di Suvero, Beethoven’s Quartet (2003).Photo by Erik Petersen

The park will close during winter and is only accessible to 100 to 150 visitors per day in the open season to avoid crowding and to “emphasise the experience of being in nature as much as possible”, says Bassuet, so visitors are encouraged to book in advance. Admission is free when no performances are scheduled.

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