Where to see art outdoors: Sculpture parks and art gardens to visit now
Art and the great outdoors – have you ever known a better pairing? Head to these venues to see art in the open air, in dramatic garden and parkland settings.
From Barbara Hepworth to Damien Hirst, artists have long been making work inspired by the great outdoors – and the great outdoors is the perfect place to see it.
Featuring sculpture by legendary artists including Elisabeth Frink, Antony Gormley and many more, these gardens and sculpture parks present work that's intended to be at one with nature, perfect for a wander in the fresh air.
Why not plan a visit to see these impressive structures for yourself. And if you have a National Art Pass, you'll get fantastic benefits at all of these locations.
A former nominee for Art Fund Museum of the Year, Jupiter Artland is home to over 30 permanent sculptures created especially for this dramatic location by artists including Phyllida Barlow, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Cornelia Parker. Set across 100 acres of meadow and woodland, this gorgeous open-air art space just outside of Edinburgh is the ideal location for a breath of fresh air.
Formerly known as Trewyn Studio, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is the former home of this celebrated sculptor. She lived and worked here with her husband, fellow artist Ben Nicholson and their young family from 1949 until her death in 1975. The real highlight here is seeing her spectacular bronze sculptures, many of which remain in the positions the artist herself placed them in. The museum is tucked away in the creative Cornish town of St Ives, so you can combine a trip to this unique space with a visit to Tate St Ives or a wander on the beach.
In the grounds of Runnymede you'll find a striking architectural landmark by Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger. Writ in Water explores the powerful message of Clause 39 of Magna Carta (which was sealed at this site): the importance of the rule of law. Made using materials drawn from the surrounding area, Writ in Water offers a tranquil place of reflection and contemplation: step inside and you'll find the principles of the clause written around a pool, to be read from the water’s surface.
The beautiful gardens of the Hepworth Wakefield are scattered with sculptures by leading artists including Barbara Hepworth and Rebecca Warren. Highlights include a striking yellow pitchfork by conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin, which appears like a 'drawing in the air' against the flowers' colourful backdrop, and Dancing Figures (1956), by celebrated post-war sculptor Lynn Chadwick, which references the ‘Teddy Boy’ youth movement of the mid-1950s. The vibrant gardens are planted in the distinctive style of landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.
If you’re out for a wander in Whitworth Park, you might notice what appears to be a tree made of mirrors. Constructed in stainless steel, this majestic sculpture by Anya Gallaccio reinstates a fallen ancient tree in a man-made form, and explores ideas of loss, memory and presence. The Whitworth art gallery is right in the heart of the park and there are plenty of other dazzling works to explore outside, including Nathan Coley’s text-based work, Gathering of Strangers, which stands poignantly above the gallery’s park entrance.
Home to over 100 stunning modern sculptures, Yorkshire Sculpture Park combines art with the striking landscape of the 18th-century Bretton Estate just outside of Wakefield. The open-air collection includes multiple works by artist and activist Ai Weiwei, notably Alfredo Jaar: The Garden of Good and Evil, a constructed cage suspended ominously in the lake. Other artists whose work graces the grounds includes Anya Gallaccio, Barbara Hepworth, Damien Hirst and Elisabeth Frink.
The hundreds of acres of parkland at this fantastic Norfolk art gallery are home to both a large population of wild rabbits and a collection of striking sculptures. Works by artists including Henry Moore and Liliane Lijn, wildflowers and ancient oaks provide the backdrop for the stunning urban architecture of the gallery building itself.
For inspiring views of the work of renowned sculptor, Henry Moore, the gardens at the studio are littered with fine examples of his work. Demonstrating the artist’s versatile skill, from large-scale outdoor sculptures to small maquettes, the gardens at his former home are perfect for a creatively fuelled stroll outdoors.
Running annually from April to October, in landscape designer Capability Brown's 'lost' lower gardens, Burghley House’s renowned sculpture exhibitions show a mixture of works which often take their inspiration from the house and gardens. Explore fantastic sculpture alongside pretty wildflowers, a charming icehouse and expansive lake, all in Burghley's vast grounds.
The gorgeous grounds of Blenheim Palace are home to a monumental sculpture by Ai Weiwei entitled Gilded Cage (2017), which explores the powerful theme of living as a refugee. Whilst catching a glimpse of this work you can also wander the extensive gardens and woodland, plus pop in to the magnificent house.
The more you see, the more we do.
The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.