We often think of art viewing as an indoor experience, moving through museums and galleries to experience painting and sculpture. But some of the best art can be seen blended with nature. Sculpture gardens, or sculpture parks, have a long history. For centuries collectors and artists have brought together monumental sculpture and placed it against nature, with institutions finding the allure of art and environment and attractive calling card for visitors.
Across the world, the best sculpture parks encourage viewers to fan out, mill the grounds and stumble upon incredible works of art. Typically focused on modernist and contemporary artists, most have both permanent collections and a set of rotating exhibitions for a different experience year round. We take a look at some of the top sculpture parks around the world, from a 16th-century “monster” park to a converted landfill, that prove you can travel the world and see great art without ever stepping foot indoors.
The best sculptures parks around the world let you enjoy world-class art while strolling in nature.
SOCRATES SCULPTURE PARK
Long Island City, Queens, New York
In 1986, artist Mark di Suvero led a group of community members in transforming this former landfill and illegal dumpsite into a premiere sculpture park. Now, almost 90,000 people a year visit the site, which is open 365 days a year. Socrates Sculpture Park has rotating exhibitions, as well as permanent sculptures and a wide range of community activities, including an outdoor cinema and farmers market during the summer.
EKEBERGPARKEN SCULPTURE PARK
Located just outside Oslo’s city center, this sculpture park was financed by art collector Christian Ringes and opened in 2013. Work by Louise Bourgeouis, Salvador Dalí, and Jenny Holzer are just some of the masterpieces in this incredible collection of modern and contemporary sculpture. Aside from the art, the park also affords sweeping views over the Norwegian capital.
Bomarzo, Viterbo, Italy
Bomarzo, also know at the Park of Monsters, is a 16th-century garden located 90 minutes outside of Rome, in northern Lazio. The larger than life grotesque figures carved out of bedrock are prime examples of monumental Mannerist sculptures. The park regained recognition in the 1950s when Salvador Dalí made a short film about the park, prompting a restoration of the grounds.
HAKONE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM
Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Known for its spectacular views of Mount Fuji, Hakone is also home to Japan’s first open-air art museum. It features a large collection of works by British master Henry Moore, as well as 100 other works of modern and contemporary sculpture by Japanese and international artists. And if you want to move indoors, the Picasso Pavillion features a large collection of ceramics purchased from the painter’s daughter.
LAUMEIER SCULPTURE PARK
Sunset Hills, Missouri
About 300,000 people a year made the pilgrimage to Laumeier Sculpture Park just outside St. Louis. Originally a park opened in 1968 as a memorial to Matilda C. Laumeier’s deceased husband Henry, it began attracting visitors when a local sculptor donated 40 pieces of his work in the 1970s. It has now become a symbolic attraction of the city, its signature sculpture by Alexander Liberman—The Way—was constructed on site in 1980 and is created from 18 salvaged steel oil tanks. The modernist work is meant to create an impact akin to Greek and Roman temples. The park also runs art classes, summer camps, and holds an annual art fair over Mother’s Day weekend.