John Kellerman / Alamy
Barcelona itself is awash in the imaginatively whimsical stonework of Antoni Gaudí, and perhaps nowhere is it shown off better than at Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain.
There is something almost otherworldly about viewing art in the outdoors. Strolling among large-scale sculptures dotting acres of rolling hills can have a certain sci-fi quality, the looming constructions seemingly rising out of the dirt to claim their stake. (Needless to say, it’s easy to let your mind get carried away.) It’s an experience that calls on all the senses, and it can be had in myriad places around the world.
It’s no secret that art and nature have enjoyed an intimate long-term relationship since, essentially, both came into being. Thankfully, pairing the two—whether on 18th-century estate grounds in Wakefield, England (Yorkshire Sculpture Park), or on 227 acres in the capital city of China’s Jilin Province (Changchun World Sculpture Park)—still has a way of feeling novel. Pieces with no apparent connection to the outdoors settle into hills, dales, thickets and gardens. The elements also play a key role; no matter how you feel about a sculpture, your perception invariably shifts in blazing heat, freezing cold, drizzling rain or dappled sunlight.
Viewing these art collections also gives you a fascinating glimpse into the history and personality of a city. Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway, is the handiwork of a single artist, Gustav Vigeland, who worked on everything from its 200-plus sculptures to the landscaping and arrangement of the works along its roughly half-mile-long stretch. Chianti Sculpture Park in Siena, Italy, on the other hand, showcases a variety of pieces hailing from 25 different countries in materials ranging from glass to bronze and steel to granite.
These outdoor exhibits are also occasionally part of a larger mission. The nine acres that make up Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Wash., are courtesy of a collaboration between the Seattle Art Museum and the Trust for Public Land, which set out to preserve the untouched waterfront site. The result? An eye-opening public space that begs to be explored—just like rest of the parks on this list.
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