The World's Coolest Sculpture Parks

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Not all of the world’s best art is found locked away inside the walls of a museum. Tour the world via grandiose sculpture by following our path through these parks where the setting is as impressive as the art.

America

The hourlong train journey from Manhattan to Beacon, New York along the tree-lined Hudson River sets the tone for the serenity of a visit to Storm King Art Center. Set on 500 acres of fields, hills and woodlands, the center’s collection includes more than 100 thoughtfully placed sculptures by artists including Alexander Calder, Maya Lin and Isamu Noguchi. Currently on view, Lynda Benglis: Water Sources is the first exhibition to display a major grouping of Benglis’ large-scale sculptures, including some hot pink, gurgling fountains inspired by her time in India, and a glow-in-the-dark piece (pictured above), which you can fully appreciate on a special after-dark tour.

Norway

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Photo from VISITOSLO/Tord Baklund

The monumental—and sometimes terrifying—iron, bronze and marble figures of Vigeland Sculpture Park are among Oslo’s most visited attractions. These pieces of art make up one of the world’s largest sculpture parks dedicated to a single artist (Gustav Vigeland). For a broader view of contemporary sculpture, also visit Ekebergparken (pictured above) while in Oslo. Established in 2013 by an art-collecting philanthropist, Ekebergparken features an eclectic range of sculptural works by the likes of Damien Hirst and Louise Bourgeois, as well as a light installation by James Turrell. Inspired by Storm King, the pieces are spread out over wooded hills and valleys that are a haven for wildlife and overlook a fjord. Incidentally, the park was also the backdrop for Munch’s “The Scream.”

Japan

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Photo courtesy of Hakone Open-Air Museum

Hakone is popular with day-trippers from Tokyo for its numerous naturally occurring hot springs and picture-perfect Mount Fuji views. The theme of nature extends to Hakone Open Air Museum, which sits on 75,000 square feet of land in the Hakone Mountains and holds 26 works by Henry Moore who believed sculpture belonged outdoors. The museum rotates its collection according to the season and features its own hot spring footbath for soothing tired feet.

Brazil

The Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim is set amongst 5,000 acres of lush botanical gardens in the southeast of Brazil, near Belo Horizonte. As well as works by more than 100 artists including the likes of Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson and Doug Aitken—many of which are site specific and were created in collaboration with landscapers—Inhotim is also home to the world’s largest collection of palm trees and 4,500 different species of exotic plants. Inhotim also has several gallery pavilions, including one dedicated to Brazilian artist Tunga.

Sweden

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Photo courtesy of Ladonia.org

Provocative artist Lars Vilks—who is on several militant organizations’ hit lists for his Mohammed drawings and survived an assassination attempt in Copenhagen earlier this year—established Ladonia. Though home to only two sculptures, it is notable for its odd background. In the 1980s, Vilks created two giant driftwood sculptures in a nature reserve in southern Sweden—one named Arx and the other, which you can walk through down to the shore, named Nimis. When the sculptures were discovered, the local council ordered their removal. In response, Vilks declared the sculptures’ site as the independent nation of Ladonia. Though not officially recognized, Ladonia has its own currency, flag, royal family and national anthem.

Karen is a Scottish freelance writer now based in New York City.

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