In 1988, Samuel Friedman approached the Central Park Conservancy about donating Group of Bears to the Park as a memorial to his recently deceased wife, Pat Hoffman Friedman (1943–1988), a furniture designer who introduced avant-garde and early 20th-century European designs to American households. The sculpture was dedicated in 1990 at the entrance to a new playground just south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It welcomes children to the playground who are often drawn to climbing on its forms.
Paul Manship first created this trio of bears in 1932 for the Paul J. Rainey Memorial Gateway at the Bronx Zoo. Later, he created a smaller group for the top of one of piers at the Osborn Gates at the entrance to Ancient Playground, just six blocks to the north. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a version of this work in their collection.
Group of Bears is one of several child-friendly sculptures sited near playgrounds in Central Park. Others include the Sophie Loeb Fountain in the Michael James Levin Playground and Mother Goose at Rumsey Playfield.