Joana Vasconcelos Jupiter Artland

Best Sculpture Parks in the UK

Culture /


Where to see sculpture al fresco

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‘Sculpture is an art of the open air’, once said Henry Moore. Anyone who has visited an outdoor gallery will know this to be true: set amid natural surroundings, art forms take on a new meaning. Gardens and sculptures complement one another. The UK is filled with beautiful sculpture parks, housing works from internationally renowned artists – and since we’re living in the age of al fresco, there’s never been a better time to explore them. From Cornwall to Edinburgh, here are some of the best.

Best Gardens in the UK / UK Art Exhibitions Guide 2021

Best Sculpture Parks in the UK

 

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  • Sainsbury Centre, Elisabeth Frink

    Sainsbury Centre

    An expansive sculpture park surrounds the Norman-Foster designed Sainsbury Centre building, located at the University of East Anglia campus. It dates back to 1973, when Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury gifted their art collection to the UEA – with Henry Moore’s Draped Reclining Woman being one of the first sculptures to be housed there. Nowadays the space features over 20 works from leading sculptors including Elisabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick and Antony Gormley, plus the park’s first site-specific piece: Ian Tyson’s painted steel Proximity. New for this autumn is a bronze sculpture by Japanese-Swiss artist Leiko Ikemura, part of a wider exhibition running at the Sainsbury Centre. sainsburycentre.ac.uk

    Image: Mirage I and II, Elisabeth Frink, 1969

  • Alicja Kwade, Big Be Hide at Albion Fields

    Albion Fields

    A newcomer to the UK’s sculpture park scene is Albion Fields, located within 50 acres of picturesque Oxfordshire countryside. The grounds offer a unique setting for artworks, ranging from open vistas to secluded woodland. Some of the land has been rewilded to its natural state too, which means sculptures will be sharing the space with deer, badgers, green woodpeckers, hare and owls. The first installation will go on display this July, featuring pieces from 26 contemporary artists including Adel Abdessemed, Joana Vasconcelos and Vito Acconci. albionbarn.com

    Image: Alicja Kwade, Big Be Hide, 2019. Image courtesy of König Galerie

  • Tremenheere sculpture garden

    Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

    You’ll find site-specific works from David Nash, James Turrell and Richard Long at Tremenheere, a secluded sculpture garden set in a sheltered valley overlooking Mount’s Bay near Penzance. Much of what you see here is down to Neil Armstrong, a local doctor who bought the site in 1977 and transformed it into an idyllic green art space. Aside from the sculpture, there’s plenty of horticulture to feast your eyes on, as Tremenheere basks in a balmy microclimate, allowing subtropical plants to grow there. tremenheere.co.uk

    Image: Instagram

  • Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden

    Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden

    From 1949 until her death in 1975, Barbara Hepworth lived and worked at Trewyn Studios in St Ives. The garden here provided an opportunity for her to work in the open air and served as an inspiration. These days, the space is owned by Tate, housing a museum and sculpture garden crammed full of Hepworth’s distinctive forms. She planned for the garden to be open to the public after her passing, so we see the sculptures as she placed them, dotted around within the shrubs and trees. To wander round here is a joy, with gravel paths weaving between lawns of exotic plants, plus a raised pond and glimpses out to sea. ‘Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic’, wrote Hepworth. tate.org.uk

    Image: Instagram

  • Temple of Apollo, Jupiter Artland

    Jupiter Artland

    Since being founded by philanthropist art collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson in 2009, Jupiter Artland has grown to become one of the most important art organisations in Scotland. Situated amid 100 acres of meadow and woodland a few miles west of Edinburgh, the park is home to art from some of the biggest names in modern sculpture – Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Phyllida Barlow, to name a few. Artists are invited to come and stay and create works while they’re there, allowing pieces to meld with the landscape. There are no set routes here: visitors are encouraged to explore in their own way, engaging with the land as a whole. jupiterartland.org

  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park

    Yorkshire Sculpture Park

    This expansive open-air gallery dates back to 1977, when an art teacher named Peter Murray decided to set up a sculpture park in the grounds of a Georgian mansion. Over 40 years on, Yorkshire Sculpture Park stands as one of the country’s best outdoor art spaces. You could spend hours exploring it, with 500 acres of countryside housing works by numerous internationally famous artists such as Antony Gormley, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Alongside the permanent pieces, the park holds regular exhibitions – current offerings include a show of Alison Milner’s work plus four sculptures by Damien Hirst. ysp.org.uk

  • The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail

    Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail

    Dating back to 1986, the 4.5-mile Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail was one of the first to open in the UK. The original brief – given to artists like David Nash, Magdalena Jetelova and Ian Hamilton Finlay – was to create pieces specific to the Forest of Dean, to be dotted discretely around the forest. Following the initial wave of commissions, the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust was set up to oversee the maintenance of the trail, managing the adding of new pieces – both permanent and temporary. Follow the path round to see a new sculpture by Natasha Rosling, as well as Cathedral: a giant stained-glass window suspended in the trees, created by Kevin Atherton. forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk

    Image: Instagram

  • Farleys House & Gallery Sculpture Garden

    Sculpture Garden at Farleys House & Gallery

    A pretty sculpture garden surrounds the former home of artists Lee Miller and Roland Penrose in east Sussex. It was redesigned by Penrose in 1949 to resemble the rooms of a house, complete with an orchard area, a more formal flower garden and lawns which were used for picnics and playing croquet with visitors. Nowadays, the garden houses over 20 permanent works by contemporary artists alongside new pieces – the 2021 display includes an installation by Christine Kowal Post exploring the mythological and spiritual significance of dogs. farleyshouseandgallery.co.uk

  • Henry Moore Sculpture Garden

    Henry Moore Studios & Gardens

    Many of Henry Moore’s most famous sculptures were made at his studio on an old farm called Hoglands, near Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. He moved here from London after his Hampstead home was bombed during the Blitz. Since Moore died in 1986, Hoglands has been open to the public, with over 70 acres of rolling fields filled with over 20 sculptures, positioned just as he intended. henry-moore.org

    Image: Instagram