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8 places to see outdoor art this summer

Published 5 August 2021

From giant worms in Bexhill to Bronze-Age carvings in Yorkshire, there is so much art to see outside this summer.

    • Michael Rakowitz, April is the cruellest month

      Michael Rakowitz, April is the cruellest month.

      1. England’s Creative Coast, Kent, Essex and Sussex

      If you need another reason to visit the seaside this summer, England’s Creative Coast can give you seven. The organisation has commissioned seven international artists to create site-specific sculptures along the Kent, Essex and Sussex coastline, with each artwork responding to the landscape and community that surrounds it.

      On Margate Beach, American artist Michael Rakowitz has created a large-scale soldier inspired by T.S Eliot’s modernist poem The Waste Land (a line in the poem reads “On Margate sands, / I can connect nothing with nothing”). Modelled on local Iraq war veteran Daniel Taylor, the figure is cast in concrete, calcite, sand from Iraq, chalk from Margate, and then filled with war medals and objects from the local community.

      Other works include a giant worm permeating a building in Bexhill (pictured above), a huge Greek head facing France in Folkestone, and a woman’s silhouette drawn on the streets of Eastbourne.

    • Phyllida Barlow, act

      Phyllida Barlow, act, 2021.

      Installation view at Highgate Cemetery, London, A Studio Voltaire commission, Image courtesy of the artist, Studio Voltaire and Hauser & Wirth, Photo- Benedict Johnson.

      2. Phyllida Barlow RA at Highgate Cemetery, London

      Settings for site-specific art don’t come much more remarkable than Highgate Cemetery. One of Victorian London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries, Highgate is a rich example of Gothic-style architecture and also the resting place of some of the 19th century’s most well-known figures – including Karl Marx, Christina Rossetti and George Eliot, to name a few.

      This summer, Phyllida Barlow RA brings her vibrant, stacked sculptures to the austere setting of the cemetery in a new site-specific commission from Studio Voltaire. Act stands at 5-metres tall and seems to emerge from the solemn brickwork of the crypt behind it, with an explosion of colour at its heart. From the front, Act appears as a permanent structure, but a walk around the work reveals its illusory, stage-like construction.

    • Cristina Iglesias, Vegetation Room III; Celosía XI (Hafsa Bint Al Hayy)

      Cristina Iglesias, Vegetation Room III; Celosía XI (Hafsa Bint Al Hayy), 2005 and 2006.

      Photo: Andy Crouch © The artist, Cristina Iglesias Studio and Marian Goodman Gallery.

      3. Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park, Norwich

      Some university campuses have patches of grass and a library; the University of East Anglia campus has a 350-acre sculpture park with works by the likes of Cristina Iglesias, Elisabeth Frink RA, and Liliane Lijn.

      Surrounding the iconic Sainsbury Centre art gallery designed by Norman Foster RA (look out for it in the Avengers movies), the Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park is a haven of internationally-renowned sculpture – there’s a Antony Gormley RA on a roof, a Henry Moore ‘Reclining Nude’ on the lawn and a bronze by Laurence Edwards hidden in the woods.

      This summer, the Japanese-Swiss artist Leiko Ikemura’s new exhibition Usagi in Wonderland is one not to miss.

    • Badger Stone

      Badger Stone

      Photo credit: Chris Collyer

      4. Badger Stone, Yorkshire

      Feeling adventurous? Lace up your walking boots and hike up to Ilkley Moor to discover some Bronze Age art.

      The moors between Ilkey and Keighley are home to one of the UK’s densest concentrations of prehistoric rock carving, with Bronze Age burial monuments, stone circles and settlements.

      The Badger Stone is one of the most iconic examples of this ancient art; an intricate carved rock in the heart of the moor, decorated with ‘cup and ring’ marks – hollows bored into the rock and surrounded by crescent shaped carvings. These designs on the surface of the rock are most likely religious symbols used to mark burial sites.

      The Badger Stone offers an encounter with ancient art and tradition in the beautiful, rugged surroundings of Ilkey Moor – and there’s a lovely pub on the way home if you need a reward after all that hiking.

    • Alison Wilding RA, Migrant

      Alison Wilding RA, Migrant, 2003.

      5. Snape Maltings, Suffolk

      On the banks of the River Alde, a former malthouse has been converted into a culture centre surrounded by outdoor sculptures.

      Emerging from the reeds near the river bank is Alison Wilding RA’s Migrant (2004), composed of two identical 3-metre lozenge forms made from bronze in black patina. The lozenges are ship-like structures with bronze rivets held up on keels which elevate them to above the surrounding reeds.

      Another beautiful work at Snape Maltings is Ryan Gander’s To Give Light (Northern Aspirational Charms), a boardgame-like circular piece composed of 10 black forms all facing each other, inspired by objects that give out light – and stick around until sunset, because the sculptures glow in the dark!

    • Damien Hirst, The Virgin Mother

      Damien Hirst, The Virgin Mother, 2005-6.

      Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2019.

      6. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire

      The UK’s first, biggest and most well-known sculpture park, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the zenith of open-air art. There is so much to discover in the 500 acres of park; modern art, stunning countryside surroundings– and a charismatic flock of sheep to boot.

      Permanent works on display include the greats of British and International sculpture – such as Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Ai Weiwei and Damien Hirst.

      This summer, four new sculptures from Damien Hirst have been installed – including his dramatic flayed woman. Hirst’s ten-metre-tall The Virgin Mother is situated by a huge lake, and the work references Degas’s Little Dancer of Fourteen Years (c.1881) as well as anatomical models.

    • Tony Cragg at Houghton Hall

      Tony Cragg at Houghton Hall

      7. Tony Cragg at Houghton Hall, Norfolk

      Houghton Hall, the colossal stately home built in Norfolk by Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Horace Walpole, has in recent years curated an impressive exhibition programme featuring international artists.

      This summer, Tony Cragg’s distinctive, organic works come to Houghton Hall. The self-curated exhibition includes new works made specifically for the show. In the vast grounds, discover Cragg’s large-scale bronze and steel sculptures. The juxtaposition between the futuristic forms of Cragg’s bubbling, gravity defying sculptures and the backdrop of 18th aristocratic grandeur is a thrilling spectacle to see – don’t miss it!

    • Piccadilly Art Takeover

      Piccadilly Art Takeover

      8. Piccadilly Art Takeover, London

      Last but definitely not least, there’s a free outdoor exhibition happening all around the Royal Academy of Art’s home in Piccadilly.

      Stroll from Piccadilly Circus to the RA and discover vibrant zebra crossings, hanging canvases, and a 780-metre film, all created by leading contemporary artists including Michael Armitage, Yinka Shonibare, Vanessa Jackson and Isaac Julien.