Alfresco Art: Where to find the best Outdoor Art

Alfresco Art is what we need now, outdoor art lets us socially distance. Somewhere to meet with friends that is both cultural and outside. Thankfully there is lots of outdoor sculpture just waiting to be found. Come with me and discover where to find the best outdoor sculpture.

Sculpture of three cartoon houses, Small, Medium and Large by Richard Woods
Small Medium Large by Richard Woods in Grosvenor Gardens

Outdoor Art in London

London is one big outdoor gallery, there are statues to the great and good almost on every corner. Look up at the corner of John Lewis on Oxford Street and you will see a Barbara Hepworth sculpture. Here is my selection of sculpture in London.

Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square stood empty for more than a century and now plays host to a changing array of sculptures. Currently topping the Fourth Plinth is THE END by Heather Phillipson featuring a giant swirl of cream with a cherry on it topped with a giant fly and crash drone.

THE END by Heather Phillipson on the fourth plinth Trafalgar Square
THE END by Heather Phillipson

Illuminated River

One to see at night time. Nine bridges from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge will be lit to form the longest artwork in the world. Lights are being switched on for new Bridges but the timetable is secret to stop large crowds gathering for the big reveals. The Illuminated River is set to run for 10 years, so you have lots of time to plan your visit.

The Line

I stumbled across The Line when I decided on a whim to see what was behind the Millennium Dome. What you’ll find is a footpath with stunning views across the river to Canary Wharf. Not only are there views, there is also art. The Line follows the banks of the rivers Thames and Lea for three miles, as you meander along the rivers you also criss cross the Greenwich meridian. At one end is the O2 Arena and at the other the Olympic Stadium, best of all you get to cross the Thames using the Emirates Air Line or by Thames Clipper. Bloomberg Connects has an app for The Line that you can download an app form either Google Play or the App Store

Quantum Cloud sculpture by Antony Gormley on Thames London under the Emirates Cable car part of The Line sculpture trail
Quantum Cloud by Antony Gormley, The Line London

Pangolin London Sculpture Trail

Have you explored the area immediately north of Kings Cross yet? It is a place transformed. There are shops, squares and a canal. It has become one of my favourite areas of London to spend a few hours just mooching. The Pangolin Gallery specialises in sculpture and has several of it works on display as Sculpture Trail. All the works are for sale, so are liable to change if somebody buys one. Maps of where to find the sculptures can be picked up in the gallery or downloaded from their website. You need to go indoors to get access to the Pangolin Sculpture Trail, some of it is dotted around the Kings Place building inside and others outside by the Canal. There are many cafe’s in King’s Place making it the ideal place for a pitstop.

Bronze sculpture of a Boar with canal boats behind. Boar II by Terence Coventry
Boar II by Terence Coventry

Sculpture in the City

Every summer the City of London unveils a new selection of outdoor sculptures. Some stay for many years and some just a year. At present there are nineteen artworks dotted around the City, all in publicly accessible places available to view for free 24 hours a day. Wandering around the City has been a favourite thing of mine to do since my days on BBC Money Box and Financial World Tonight when I used to head there often to interview people. Not only will you see the Sculpture in the City artworks, there is also an incredible array of modern architecture quite often on the Roman and Medieval street plans. Works from the last Sculpture in the City collection are being moved and new ones moved in at the moment … watch this space for more news.

Wander Art in Mayfair

Mayfair is awash with private art galleries, everything is for sale but there are never any price tags. You don’t need to have deep pockets to enjoy art in Mayfair. Dotted around the streets of Mayfair and Belgravia are the works of twelve contemporary sculptors. The Wander Art website has a map with all the sculpture locations marked along with cafés for cultural pitstops.

Outdoor Art in the South East

One of the great joys of the 2020 has been getting to know the area just outside the M25 much better. I have discovered that you don’t need to head miles away or up to London to see beautiful things. We won’t be heading abroad this summer but will be exploring alfresco art and more in the South East.

Farley’s House Sculpture Park

Farley’s House was home to surrealists Lee Miller and Roger Penrose. They filled their house and garden with remarkable art. The Sculpture Park was Roger Penrose’s creation with and is filled with his own work and his friends. He didn’t want the park to become static and so every year contemporary artists are invited to display their works. A visit to Farley’s is top of my wishlist for summer 2021.

  • Farleys House and Garden, Chiddingly, East Sussex BN8 6HW
  • Open: Gardens open from April 18, Gallery and Gardens from May 17
    • April – October: Sundays and Thursday 10am – 4.30pm
  • Pre-booking essential
  • Admission: Gardens only £5.50, Gardens and Gallery £10.50, House, Gardens and Gallery £20
  • Getting there: Driving is the best way, Farleys House is just north of the A22 midway between Uckfield and Polegate

Henry Moore Studio and Gardens

Henry Moore was revered in our household when I was growing up. He created powerful innovative images and most important of all he came from Yorkshire, where my mother grew up. Odd then that his home should be a few miles from my father’s childhood home in Bishops Stortford! Any way it is a Cultural Wednesday family favourite. Henry Moore sculptures are dotted around the grounds of the the artists home. You can also explore his studio, when we are allowed inside again.

  • Henry Moore Studio and Gardens, Perry Green, SG10 6EE
  • Open: 31 March – 31 October 2021
    • Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult £6.35 concessions and family tickets available
  • Art Fund card holders 25% discount
  • Driving is the most practical way to get to the Henry Moore studios, a taxi from Bishops Stortford station would take about 15 minutes.

Folkestone

Folkestone has the largest collection of outdoor art in the UK. Wandering round the town is like being in a giant outdoor art gallery. Summer 2021 is THE time to visit as even more outdoor art will be added as part of the Folkestone Triennial which starts on July 22. Check out the Triennial website for the full range of arty events happening this summer. The outdoor art is accessible 24/7/365 and is FREE.

  • Folkestone is easy to get to trains to London St Pancras International take an hour it will take you about half an more to catch a train to London Charing Cross. By car Folkestone is at the end (or beginning) of the M20.

Painshill Park

Painshill Park doesn’t have art as such, instead it is a work of art that you can walk around. Painshill was landscaped in the eighteenth century, there are follies, lakes and grotto. You stand in a folly and take in views that look like paintings. Some of Bridgerton was filmed here, who knows you might bump into the Duke of Hastings round the next corner.

  • Painshill Park, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1JE
  • Open: March – October Daily 10am – 6pm, November – February 10am – 4pm
  • Admission: Adult £10 concessions and child prices available, booking essential
  • Art Fund card holders 25% discount
  • Getting there: driving is the easiest way with Painshill moments away from the Cobham junction of the A3 and a mile or so away from M25 Junction 10. Cobham & Stoke d’Abernon Station is two miles away, (2 miles), Walton-on-Thames and Weybridge Stations are five miles with taxis available from both. 

Outdoor Sculpture in East Anglia

The big skies of Norfolk make for an excellent backdrop to outdoor sculpture, but then regular readers will know that I think the big Norfolk skies make a perfect backdrop to almost anything.

Houghton Hall

Houghton Hall was built by Britain’s first Prime Minister but the sculpture that you find in the grounds is modern. Every summer Houghton plays host to a different contemporary artist. In 2021 it is the turn of Tony Cragg. Houghton’s permanent collection includes Henry Moore, Rachel Whiteread and Richard Long.

  • Houghton Hall, North Norfolk PE31 6TY
  • Open: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sundays 19 May – 26 September 2021, 11am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adults £18, under 18 free
  • Getting there: Driving is best way, double check your satnav instructions with Google maps I didn’t and ended up lost in the beautiful North Norfolk lanes. A taxi from Kings Lynn station will take about 25 minutes.
A Line In Norfolk by Richard Long at Houghton Hall a line of sandstone pointing to a Palladian waterpower
A Line in Norfolk by Richard Long

UEA sculpture park, Norwich

Norwich is medieval city, the University of East Anglia on the outskirts of Norwich is brutally modern and beautiful. World class art first came to the campus with the arrival of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in the 1980s. Now the collection of contemporary sculpture has spread out across the 350 acres of the campus. You can see works by Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick and Antony Gormley among others against the backdrop of a Norfolk Broad and architecture by Denys Lansdun and Norman Foster.

  • UEA Sculpture Park, Norwich, NR4 7TJ
  • Open: Daily during daylight hours
  • Admission: Free
  • Getting there: Bus routes 25 and 26 run from Norwich Train Station, if you are driving follow the signs for the Sainsbury Centre Car park.

Alfresco Art in North England

Crosby Beach is on wish list to visit and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been a favourite since it opened. The area around Wakefield is renowned for its Rhubarb Triangle where rhubarb is grown in sheds by candlelight, whilst a big fan of rhubarb for me the triangle is of three amazing venues for art and sculpture.

Crosby Beach

One hundred cast iron life size figures by Antony Gormley stand suitably distanced over a 3km area , the tide ebbs and flows over the statues. I confess that I find the Antony Gormley people casts to be more than a little claustrophobic, I look at them and imagine cast making process and panic a little. That having said I would love to see Another Place, as the collection of men are called. A quick health and safety note, Crosby Beach is not safe to swim from and soft mud plus swift tides make it extremely dangerous to head out to the furthest figures.

  • Trains from central Liverpool run regularly to Blundell Sands and Crosby stations both of which are a short walk from Another Place
  • Admission: Free

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

West Yorkshire was home to both Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, so it is fitting that the finest sculpture park in the country should be just a few miles outside Wakefield. In addition to Hepworth and Moore work by Ai Weiwei, Andy Goldsworth, Elizabeth Frink and many more can be seen in the wide open outdoor spaces of the Park.

Whilst you are in the Wakefield area why not check out The Hepworth Wakefield and Leeds Art Gallery. It was Leeds Art Gallery along with the Norwich Castle Museum that sparked my life long love affair with all things museum.

  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park, WF4 4JX
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult £6, under 18 free, booking essential
  • Getting there: Set your sat nav for WF4 4JX, free parking on site

Outdoor Art in Scotland

Top things that I want to revisit Scotland to see are Stirling Castle, Gairloch Museum, the Kelpies and Jupiter Artland. I haven’t visited any of them and the V&A Dundee would also be included in any tour.

Jupiter Artland

Jupiter Artland sounds amazing 350 acres of parkland surrounding a Jacobean house have been filled with contemporary sculpture. Some of the works have involved sculpting the land resulting a grass green and water landscape.

  • Jupiter Artland, Wilkieston, Edinburgh EH27 8BY
  • Open: From April 17 daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult £9, concession and family tickets available
  • Booking essential
  • Getting there: 30 minute walk from nearest train station Kirknewton

The Kelpies

The Kelpies are the world’s largest equine statue, two steel clad 30 metre high horses heads rear out of the ground. Except they aren’t horses they are Kelpies mythical shape shifting water horses. The sculpture by Andy Scott is the most visible part of an eco park created by the side of the canal between Falkirk and Grangemouth. In more normal times you can go inside the Kelpies but I confess that just want to gaze at them and cycle through the Ecopark.

  • The Kelpies at the Helix, Falkirk FK2 7ZT
  • Open: car park open 8am – 10pm
  • Admission: Looking at the Kelpies is free, a tour inside starts at £5
  • Getting there: Two train stations are close by Falkirk High (3 miles) and Falkirk Grahamston (2 miles). There is a large paid car park right by the Kelpies

Where are your favourite places to see Outdoor Art, what do I need to add to my list?

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