George Rickey’s Kinetic Sculpture Dances At A Great Gilded Age Mansion

A great Shingle style Gilded Age summer cottage, Naumkeag is sited on a hillside overlooking lush ... [+] gardens.

Gross and Daley Photography courtesy of The Trustees

When New York’s Choate family summered at Naumkeag, there was dancing aplenty. The socially active family that was passionate about art, nature, gardens and travel lived large in the grand vacation cottage designed for them in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts by Stanford White. Eight acres of gardens created by America’s leading modern landscape architect, Fletcher Steele, encircle the Shingle style house. Now the house and its gardens are hosts to a collection of kinetic sculpture by George Rickey; in the breeze of the hillside, they dance and twirl with the joyful grace of Gilded Age debutantes.

ViewEscapes is one of the largest retrospectives of the work of George Warren Rickey (1907-2002) to be held in the Northeast in 40 years. Rickey is considered one of the greatest and most prolific kinetic sculptors and artists of the 20th century, creating more than 3,000 moving sculptures during his lifetime, the majority of which were produced just 20 miles from Naumkeag in his East Chatham, NY studio. His moving blades, squares, triangles, and circles made of stainless steel, polished metal, and painted surfaces can be found in hundreds of museums and public spaces around the world as well as galleries and private collections.

Among the flowers of Naumkeag's gardens, the sculptures move in the wind.

Stephanie Zollshan Photography

“This is a rare and exciting opportunity to experience the brilliance of Rickey’s dynamic art within the architectural context, natural setting, and scenic beauty of Naumkeag,” says Mark Wilson, Trustees Associate Curator who has overseen the curation of the exhibition. “The consistent breeze on the hilltop helps to set the outdoor sculptures into motion and provide an ideal setting to showcase his incredible work.”

Double L Excentric Gyratory III from 1991-1992 among tulip beds.

Stephanie Zollshan Photography

Rickey has recently been brought back into contemporary focus for his contributions to the kinetic art movement through Rickey NYC, an exhibition of 13 of his monumental sculptures sited along Park Avenue and the High Line. The New York exhibition just ended in April of 2022. In addition, his life and work are the subject of George Rickey: A Life in Balance, a new biography published to critical acclaim by Belinda Rathbone, released in September 2021.

“We are beyond honored to showcase George Rickey’s work throughout Naumkeag’s interior and exterior spaces, which are masterful works of art and architectural design in themselves,” adds Brian Cruey, Trustees Southern Berkshires Property Director who oversees management and programming at Naumkeag. “This is our largest and longest running exhibition at Naumkeag, offering visitors an opportunity to experience Rickey’s contributions to the art world in this iconic setting through the changing seasons.”

Horizontal Column of Seven Squares Excentric (1996) moves above a pond

Stephanie Zollshan Photography

The exhibition, which opened to the public last weekend, will remain at Naumkeag until November 1. It features 12 of Rickey’s large-scale outdoor sculptures installed throughout Naumkeag’s gardens, as well as eight interior sculptures and three works of art on display in the historic house museum. The exhibition features Rickey’s life and work spanning from the 1950s, as he was gaining prominence, up to the 1990s, at the end of his long and prolific career.

The Choate family bequeathed the property in 1959 to The Trustees to preserve and share the house and gardens for public use and enjoyment. Now a National Historic Landmark and one of The Trustees’ most visited properties, Naumkeag is a brilliant example of the work of one of the country’s most preeminent architectural firms, McKim, Mead White.