'Sculpture' is used here to make a distinction between the work of contemporary artists and classical garden statuary. The latter is appropriate for traditional and historic gardens; the former is appropriate for contemporary gardens.
Original sculpture was produced for western gardens in the ancient and classical periods. The practice of using sculpture out of doors ended with the arrival of Christianity: sculpture was then associated with paganism and the idolatrous worship of graven images. With the renaissance, the placing of sculpture in gardens resumed and has continued almost unabated. It was common fora sculpture programme to be an integral part of the garden design process and some sculptors were garden designers.
The development of abstract art in the twentieth century caused a hiatus in the history of gaden sculpture. Shapes and forms were abstracted from nature. Sculpture was abstracted from its context though it continued to be placed out of doors. Henry Moore is a case in point. He considered it humiliating to work under the direction of an architect or other designer but was keenly interested in the positioning of his sculptures. Other abstract artists were uninterested in the context of their sculpture, preferring their work to be placed in 'white box' art galleries. The term 'white box' signifies that the gallery was a neutral space. There was no relationship between the sculpture and it setting.
With regard to sculpture, these trends run counter to the process of absraction. Works of art are contextualised; they are installed in specific locations; sculptures are installed in gardens, sometimes eliminating the distinction between the 'sculpture' and the 'garden'. After gaining a reputation in Installation Art, Robert Irwin was commissioned to design the 'garden' of the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Conceptual Art, which deals essentially in ideas, also tends to relate 'interventions' to specific locations, which can be gardens. It remains to be seen whether Conceptual Art will have a significant impact on garden design.
Garden sculpture: girl on chair