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Open-Air Galleries: 10 of the World’s Most Outstanding Sculpture Parks

Sculpure parks. Bernar Venet's 88.5° ARC x 8.
Bernar Venet, 88.5° ARC x 8, 2012. Image © Gibbs Farm

By Naomi Martin

“A large piece of stone or wood placed almost anywhere at random in a field, orchard or garden, immediately looks right and inspiring.”

Henry Moore, The Sculptor Speaks

There is something quite extraordinary about the serene yet powerful essence of the great outdoors. Romantic poets and scientists alike have been praising the benefits of nature on our general wellbeing for centuries. Open spaces and fresh air can transcend senses, inspire and ease the mind; but the dynamism and harmony of nature can be made even more inspiring when juxtaposed with incredible works of art. Sculpture parks – or gardens – have a long and rich history, but most importantly the ability to turn artists’ ambitious, large-scale visions into a reality.

Out in the open, unhindered by the traditional confines of indoor museums and galleries, sculptures are rendered even more powerful by the landscape they inhabit. More so, sculpture parks offer visitors a completely new perspective on both art and nature, as they manage to capture the harmony of their dialogue. Take a look below at ten of the world’s most incredible outdoor art centres, guaranteed to amaze and proving that enjoying art does not necessarily have to be an indoor experience.


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Storm King Art Center

New Windsor, NY

Mark di Suvero, Figolu, at the Storm King Art Center
Mark di Suvero, Figolu, 2005–11, © Mark di Suvero, courtesy of the artist and Spacetime C.C., photo by Jerry L. Thompson via the Storm King Art Center

Established in 1960, the Storm King Art Center holds the strongest collection of contemporary sculptures in the United States, with more than 100 masterpieces adorning a breath-taking landscape. About an hour’s drive away from Manhattan, works by Andy Goldsworthy, Sol LeWitt, and Henry Moore, among many others, are dotted around the hills, woodlands and ponds, nurturing a melodious bond between art and nature. Beyond its incredible permanent collection, the Storm King Art Center also features ephemeral exhibitions and a dynamic program, from summer camps to yoga classes.

Forrest Myers, Four Corners, at the Storm King Art Center - sculpture parks
Forrest Myers, Four Corners, 1969–70, photo by Jerry L. Thompson via the Storm King Art Center

Inhotim

Brumadinho, Brazil 

sculpture park by Hélio Oiticica at De Luxe at Inhotim museum, Brazil
Hélio Oiticica, Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square #5, De Luxe at Inhotim. OTÁVIO NOGUEIRA FROM FORTALEZA, BR / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Initially destined to host founder Bernardo Paz’s personal art collection, the Inhotim Institute quickly became one of the most impressive outdoor art centres of Latin America, and a natural heritage site. The institution features a remarkable collection of contemporary art, on view within over 140 hectares of tropical forest, transforming a simple visit into a limitless exploration, where art and nature coalesce. The fabulous, exotic botanical collection contains more than 5,000 different species of plants, some extremely rare, which can be observed through Danish-Icelandic artist ‎Ólafur Elíasson’s Viewing Machine – a kaleidoscopic tunnel enhancing the stunning surrounding vegetation.

Schlossgut Schwante

Oberkrämer, Germany

Martin Creed, Everything Is Going to Be Alright.
Martin Creed, Everything Is Going to Be Alright, 2011 © Hanno Plate

Schlossgut Schwante is the ambitious project of Dr. Loretta Würtenberger and Daniel Tümpel, who endeavoured to transform a stunning 18th century caste into a spectacular outdoor art experience. Only a 45 minutes’ drive away from Berlin-Mitte, The Schlossgut Schwante Sculpture Park opened its doors on June 19th, 2020. The inaugural exhibition, ‘Sculpture & Nature’, features works from international artists including Ai Weiwei, Tony Cragg, and Maria Loboda, inhabiting the impressive estate and its pastoral landscape. The park will renew its program every two years, and engage with the local community through yoga and photography classes, markets, artist talks and other promising events.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Wakefield, United Kingdom

Henry Moore, Large Two Forms at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Henry Moore, Large Two Forms at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (1966-69) © Jonty Wilde

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the UK’s very first permanent institution of the genre, and features one of the world’s strongest collection of sculptures. Situated in West Yorkshire, England, the park fosters a stunning collection of works by globally renowned artists such as Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, Joan Miró and Mark di Suvero, which gracefully blend in among the seasonal variation and spectacular natural elements. The YSP is also acclaimed for its cutting-edge rotating exhibitions, currently displaying works by Damien Hirst and Joana Vasconcelos. Wandering among fields, lush greenery and stumbling upon grazing sheep, a visit at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is guaranteed to be a magical and holistic experience.

Jaume Plensa, Nuria and Irma, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Jaume Plensa, Nuria and Irma, Image courtesy YSP / © jonty wilde

Jupiter Artland

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Charles Jencks, Cells of Life, at Jupiter Artland Sculpture Park
Charles Jencks, Cells of Life, 2003-2010. Image courtesy of Jupiter Artland

Located in the grounds of an old manor house, just outside Edinburgh, Jupiter Artland is one of Scotland’s leading arts organisations, a stunning sculpture garden set over 100 acres of woodland and meadows. Founders and art collectors Nicky and Robert Wilson bought the estate in 1999 and decided to publicly open its grounds in 2009, creating an enchanting space where works from artists including Antony Gormley, Cornelia Parker and Anish Kapoor can be discovered dotted around an exquisite rural landscape. At the core of the park, land artist Charles Jencks created Cells of life, a splendid series of undulating hills and lakes.

The Tarot Garden

Capalbio, Italy

Niki de Saint Phalle, Fountain in The Tarot Garden - sculpture park
Niki de Saint Phalle, Fountain in The Tarot Garden, Photography © Hans Jan Dürr

The Tarot Garden is a truly mesmerising and whimsical place, located in the heart of Tuscany. After visiting Antoni Gaudì’s Park Güell in Barcelona, French artist Niki de Saint Phalle was inspired to create an esoteric garden, representing the Major Arcana found in a tarot deck. The Tarot Garden epitomises an alternate world, between fantasy and reality, and is considered to be Niki de Saint Phalle’s life’s work. A number of artists collaborated on the utopian garden, such as Pierre Marie Lejeune, who created the ceramic benches adorning the area, as well as other furnishings inside the ticket office, Alan Davie, Marina Karella and Jean Tinguely. In Niki de Saint Phalle’s own words: . “I’m following a course that was chosen for me, following a pressing need to show that a woman can work on a monumental scale.”

Ekeberg Park

Oslo, Norway

Elmgreen & Dragset, Dilemma, at Ekebergparken, Oslo, Norway
Elmgreen & Dragset, Dilemma, 2017, at Ekebergparken, Oslo, Norway.

Opened by art collector Christian Ringnes in 2013, Ekebergparken is a 25 acres woodland located just outside of Oslo’s city centre, where exquisite sculptures can be discovered in the depth of the forest. The park has several spectacular lookout points enhancing the beauty of the Oslo Fjord, and its fascinating geological elements. Wild animals roam free amongst an incredible collection of modern and contemporary sculptures, including works from artists such as Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dalí, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Damien Hirst and Louise Bourgeois.

Gibbs Farm

Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand

Neil Dawson sculpture park, Horizons, at Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, New Zealand
Neil Dawson, Horizons, 1994, Gibbs Farm. Image © Gibbs Farm

Located an hour north of Auckland, Gibbs Farm is New Zealand’s most impressive sculpture park, overlooking the Kaipara harbour – one of the largest in the world. Founder Alan Gibbs strived to push the limits of the relationship between art and nature, commissioning artists to create pieces that would react to the enormous, awe-inspiring landscape. The park spreads over 1.000 acre of grassy hilltops and spectacular lakes, and is home to a number of ‘farm’ animals, including zebras and water buffalos. Gibbs Farm includes remarkable pieces from artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Sol LeWitt, Neil Dawson, and Anish Kapoor, among many others.

Lake Ballard

Menzies, Australia

Antony Gormley, Inside Australia, Lake Ballard, 2002-03
Antony Gormley, Inside Australia, 2002-03. © Antony Gormley

“I was trying to achieve the highest level of tension between mass and space with highly concentrated and individualised bodyforms distributed sparsely across this chemical surface.”

Antony Gormley

Not a sculpture park strictly speaking, Inside Australia is nonetheless Australia’s largest outdoor gallery. Located near Menzies, Lake Ballard is a salt lake, loaded with history and a peaceful, transcendent beauty. It is the site of Antony Gormley’s installation Inside Australia, which features 51 cast steel humanoid figures positioned over the lake, spread out 750 metres apart from each other. The figures blend into the vastness of the landscape, playing with the viewer’s perceptual field as their reflection travels on the white, mirror-like surface of the saltpan. Inside Australia is a truly poetic, unmatched artistic experience

Japan’s Art Islands

Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima Islands, Japan

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 1994, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan.
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 1994, Benesse Art Site Naoshima, Japan. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Commonly referred to as Japan’s Art Islands, Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima are part of a cluster or rural islands in Japan’s inland sea. Japanese billionaire Soichiro Fukutake opened the Benesse House Museum in 1992 on the island of Naoshima, hoping to bring together contemporary architecture and art, seeing in the island’s natural beauty a perfect backdrop for the appreciation of contemporary art. Benesse Art Site Naoshima is now the common denominator for all art-related activities on the islands.

Naoshima is the best known of the Art Islands, with major museums such as the Chichu Art Museum, as well as Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkins adorning the picturesque landscape. Teshima is home to the Teshima Art Museum, an incredible, other-worldly place, which challenges all notions of what a museum should be. The smaller island of Inujima hosts the Inujima’s Seirensho Art Museum, as well as a multitude of small galleries dotted throughout the island.


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Relevant sources to learn more

Take a deeper look at Antony Gormley’s Inside Australia Project
Read Rob Garrett’s essay about Gibbs Farm
Discover Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organic Architecture
Discover Places Made Famous by the Art they Inspired


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