Six of the World’s Most Spectacular Sculpture Parks

by Jeffrey Davidson

From New York to Norway, these galleries without walls all debut new exhibitions this spring and summer

Spring is well underway and summer is quickly approaching. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between getting some fresh air and viewing renowned artwork, since some of the world’s most impressive sculpture parks let you do both. From Socrates Sculpture Park in New York City to Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England, these open-air galleries all have new exhibitions opening.

Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York

Situated on 500 wooded acres in New York’s Hudson Valley, Storm King Art Center has been luring city dwellers upstate since 1960. The park’s impressive collection of modern and contemporary art could just as easily be on view at one of New York City’s museums, but instead over the past 59 years Storm King has been continually amassing new pieces to its expansive collection, which includes works by Alexander Calder, Grace Knowlton, Mark di Suvero and Maya Lin. In addition to its regular collection of installations, Storm King will debut two new exhibitions on May 4. The first, “Outlooks: Jean Shin,” features works created by the Brooklyn-based artist using salvaged maple trees, while “Mark Dion: Follies” is the first major survey of the conceptual artist’s work dedicated to creating architectural follies, or structures made for decoration and not necessarily for functional purposes.

Ekebergparken, Oslo, Norway

Only open since 2013, Ekebergparken has become a welcome addition to Oslo’s growing art scene. Over the past six years the sculpture park has added several-dozen art installations to its 25-acre property, including works by performance artist Marina Abramović and a bronze sculpture of Venus de Milo by Salvador Dalí. Continuing to acquire pieces from high-profile artists, Ekebergparken will add not one but two highly anticipated installations this spring. The first is a duo of pieces, “Skyspace” and “Ganzfeld,” light installations by American artist James Turrell from two of his most popular series, while Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya will return for one day only (May 4) with her popular artificial fog installation that will transform the property’s forest into a mystical wonderland.

Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Washington

About a mile from the Seattle Art Museum and three miles from the Asian Art Museum, the entirely free Olympic Sculpture Park overlooks Seattle’s Puget Sound and is the city’s largest green space, encompassing nine acres.* The park is a photographer’s delight, with installations like Alexander Calder’s cherry-red “The Eagle” and Jaume Plensa’s “Echo” filling Instagram feeds of locals and visitors alike. In addition to its more than two-dozen permanent installations, the park also regularly welcomes temporary works, including its latest, “Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap,” which will debut on May 11. The Brazilian artist will wrap the park’s PACCAR Pavilion with “an elaborate pattern of tire tracks” inspired by the park’s proximity to several busy thoroughfares.

Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone, Japan

When Hakone Open-Air Museum opened in 1969, it was Japan’s first open-air museum. Now, a half-century later, it continues to be one of the country’s most celebrated art institutions, amassing more than 1,000 sculptures in the years since. Located about 45 miles outside Yokohama in the town of Hakone, the property continues to be one of the region’s biggest draws, not only for its collection, but also its sweeping views of the neighboring mountains and valleys. While the museum focuses largely on Japanese artists like Taro Okamoto and Yasuo Mizui, it also houses an elaborate collection of pieces by international names, such as 20th century English artist Henry Moore and post-Impressionist Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso. To help celebrate its 50th anniversary, Hakone will reopen its Picasso Hall, a 319-piece collection of the late Spanish artist’s work.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire, England

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the United Kingdom’s first sculpture park and the largest of its kind in Europe, sprawling across 500 rolling acres that are part of the 18th-century Bretton Hall estate. Touting itself as a “gallery without walls,” the massive sculpture park has served as both a temporary and permanent home for pieces created by a who’s-who of the sculpture world, including Ai Weiwei, KAWS, Joan Miró, Tony Cragg and Amar Kanwar. Always on the precipice of what’s hot in the art world, the park’s summer lineup is sure to not disappoint, with new exhibitions like “David Smith: Sculpture 1932-1965,” a comprehensive solo exhibition featuring 40 works by the late American sculptor, and “The Garden of Good and Evil” by Alfredo Jaar, a series of jail cells strategically placed amongst the property’s trees, on the docket.

Socrates Sculpture Park, New York City

Socrates Sculpture Park, New York City

Before it became one of New York City’s first sculpture parks in 1986, this stretch of land in Long Island City, Queens, served as an abandoned landfill. Sensing an opportunity, sculptor Mark di Suvero scooped up the four-acre waterfront plot and created Socrates Sculpture Park. Although smaller in acreage compared to similar parks—land comes at a premium in NYC—Socrates remains a hidden gem amongst the city’s skyscrapers and has hosted numerous temporary exhibitions over the years. Next up is “Chronos Cosmos: Deep Time, Open Space,” which will debut on May 5 and feature works by Miya Ando, Eduardo Navarro and Maria Rapicavoli that “transforms Socrates Sculpture Park into a gateway to the universe, presenting artworks that consider space, time and matter in relationship to celestial entitites and earth-bound processes.”

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