The UK’s best public sculpture parks and art trails, to visit safely this summer

2020 is officially the year of the staycation and with the British summer holidays now in full swing, this is a great time to explore some of the best public sculpture gardens and art trails the UK has to offer.

Outdoor sculpture parks are ideal if you’d rather not venture into a public gallery or museum at the moment, but still crave some culture. Seasoned art enthusiasts will love observing the works of some of the UK’s greatest twentieth-century and contemporary sculptors in these open air galleries. But you don’t need to be an art connoisseur to enjoy these national treasures. With masses of space and plenty of social distancing measures now in place, they provide a safe, fun day out for all the family. There are lots of public sculpture park and art trails around the country for you to explore this summer and here we’ve selected some of our favourite ones.

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Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, Cornwall

Pay a visit to Trewyn Studio in St Ives and you’ll discover Barbara Hepworth’s much-loved Cornish home and studio, before hear death in 1975. Yorkshire-born modernist sculptor Hepworth studied alongside Henry Moore at the Leeds School of Art and enjoyed similar prominence as a leading figure on the world art stage for many decades. She favoured working with natural mediums to create her figurative abstracts in bronze, wood and stone. You can view over 30 of her most exciting works at the open air Trewyn Studio, which is now in the care of the Tate. Hepworth’s very special home and studio can be visited at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.

‘Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic’, wrote Hepworth. ‘Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space’.

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Henry Moore Studio and Gardens, Hertfordshire

One of the UK’s most well-known (and well-loved) artists, Henry Moore was among the twentieth century’s most pioneering sculptors. Famed for his post-war modernism figurative work, he single-handedly started a British sculptural renaissance in the early 20th century. Born in Yorkshire, Moore is still globally renowned to this day and his semi-abstract monumental bronzes can be found in hundreds of galleries, museums and public spaces across 38 countries. But you don’t need to travel the world to see some of this British sculptor’s most renowned pieces.

The Henry Moore Studios and Gardens, based in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, recently reopened to the public and this little gem has implemented lots of social distancing and hygiene measures to keep you safe during your visit. Pre-book your tickets on the Henry Moore Foundation website. You will also find a collection of Moore’s works at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park…

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

This incredible ‘gallery without walls’ opened in the 1970’s and operates an exciting changing exhibition programme, as well as featuring several permanent pieces. Allow a good couple of hours to explore the grounds of this 500 acre site.

Internationally-acclaimed artists from Ai Weiwei to Anthony Caro, as well as local artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore have all exhibited at this stunning 18th century park. Visit before 2022 to see four major sculptures by British contemporary artist Damien Hirst. Or see a number of sculptures by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos in the park’s Underground Gallery and Open Air spaces, before January 2021.

The best bit? This Yorkshire delight is free to visit (just pay for your parking) and you can even bring your dog!

And while you’re in the area, why not continue your art adventure by visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle trail?

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Anthony Gormley’s Another Place, Crosby Beach, Merseyside

Often referred to as Britain’s favourite living sculptor, internally-renowned Anthony Gormley is the pioneer behind many of our ‘household name’ public sculptures. Travel along the A1 motorway towards Gateshead and you can’t miss Gormley’s Angel of the North, which stands majestically above the Northumberland countryside. Famed as the world’s largest angel sculpture, this incredible bronze statue stands 20 metres tall, with a wing span of 177 feet! The Angel of the North is seen by over 33 million people each year but does unfortunately whizz by if you view it from the motorway. So to see some of Gormley’s other works close-up, why not head to Crosby Beach in Merseyside? Here you will find Another Place, a permanent installation of 100 cast iron figures modelled on the artist’s own naked body. Stood across 2.5 kilometres along the coast and 1 kilometre out to sea, each of these 650 kilo figures are shown at different stages of rising out of the sand, staring at the horizon in ‘silent expectation.’

Take a brisk walk along the coast to visit Another Place, which is incredible at any time of the day.  We recommend taking in their beauty at dusk when the tide gently laps over the bronze figures.

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Regularly hailed as the ‘capital of art’, London’s art scene boasts a rich mix of up-and-coming home-grown talent as well as established national and international names. Comfortably competing with any capital city, it houses some of the best galleries, art institutions and museums in the world. But there’s no need to step indoors – you’ll find hundreds of outdoor sculptures, street art, installations and murals scattered generously around the big smoke. Blink and you might miss them!

This year’s Sculpture in the City has been extended until autumn 2020 and showcases an exciting collection of works around the Square Mile. Or create your own art tour and take in everything from Lynn Chadwick’s Couple on Seat and Pierre Vivant’s Traffic Light Tree, both at Canary Wharf, to Eduardo Paolozzi’s colossal Newton after William Blake bronze outside the British Library.

Alternatively, join one of the well-organised London street art tours – you never know what you might find around the corner!

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Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall, Norfolk

Born in mid-1950’s Mumbai, Anish Kapoor has successfully emerged as one of the world’s most influential sculptors of his generation. His seminal, large-scale public sculptures push the boundaries of both imagination and engineering, and grace galleries, museums and urban streets around the world. Turner-prize winning Kapoor is no stranger to exhibiting in the UK. His leviathan 150 metre-long, ten-storey high Marsyas was commissioned for the Tate Modern Turbine Hall in 2003, earning both critical acclaim and a new wave of Kapoor enthusiasts. And who could forget the 114 metre-high ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture and observation tower at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London?

Visit Norfolk this summer and you will discover 24 of Kapoor’s ground-breaking sculptures in the grounds of beautiful Houghton Hall. This includes one of his most famous works, Sky Mirror, as well as many further works inside the house.

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Philip Haas at RHS Wisley, Woking

American artist, screenwriter and filmmaker, Philip Haas is best known for his 2012 sculpture exhibition The Four Seasons. Representing Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter in human form, these larger-than-life, highly imaginative sculptures reach almost 5 metres tall. Haas was inspired by the 16th century Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo to create the four statues, using seasonal fruit, vegetables, flowers and crops to represent the harvests of the seasons.

For the rest of 2020, you can view The Four Seasons at RHS Wisley, where the gardens are open to the public five days a week. Bookings need to be made in advance.

While you are there, why not visit the Exotic Garden? Opened in 2017, the garden showcases lush planting from the tropics as well as the specially commissioned RHS Wisley Exotic Fountain by Haddonstone.

  • Jupiter Artland

Best of the rest…

  • Jupiter Artland, West Lothian
  • Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
  • Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, Devon
  • Leicester Botanic Gardens
  • Newcastle Art Trail
  • Lake Vrynwy Sculpture Trail
With so many public sculpture parks and art trails to discover around the UK, we are sure that you will find the ideal place to take in the great British outdoors and indulge in some culture this summer.  Enjoy!

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