Britain’s finest sculpture parks and gardens to visit this autumn

If you’re embracing a staycation this September and desire a dose of art and culture, look no further than our guide to the UK’s sculpture hot spots

Autumn is a wonderful time to explore the UK. The days might feel a little fresher, but with Mother Nature treating us to her magical display as the landscape transforms with its seasonal display of colour, taking in the great outdoors is a must. So imagine witnessing the majesty of sculpture – the sheer beauty of form and shape – set against this breathtaking backdrop. Playing host to work by some of the world’s best artists, this is exactly the opportunity afforded by Britain’s best sculpture parks and gardens. And, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered should inclement weather make an untimely appearance. 

Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall, Norfolk
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Once experienced, Anish Kapoor’s work is never forgotten. He is a master of form and a sculpting magician, bending his chosen medium – be it stainless steel, onyx, granite or marble – to his will in ways so imaginative it often affords the viewer a new perspective on the world around them.

This autumn, you can delight in awe-inspiring wonder of this much decorated sculptor as you take in 24 seminal pieces by Kapoor currently on display in the picturesque environs of Houghton Hall in Norfolk. This is the largest exhibition of the artist’s outdoor sculpture in the UK, so expect to be mesmerised by highlights including Sky Mirror (2018), a five-metre wide concave circle of stainless steel that reflects the seemingly infinite expanse of sky above.

Bircham Road, Houghton, King’s Lynn, PE31 6TY. Wednesday-Sunday, 11:00-17:00, until 1 November. Tickets must be booked in advance.

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Cornwall
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Recently the subject of a Google Doodle honouring what would have been her 117th birthday, Barbara Hepworth’s abstract work can be seen in glorious detail in the place she called home from 1949 until her tragic death in 1975. Her Cornish idyll is now under the stewardship of Tate St Ives and a wander through the museum provides a fascinating insight into this prolific sculptor’s work.

The bronzes dotted around the garden meanwhile maintain the positioning decided by Hepworth herself, and in career that spanned five decades you come to appreciate the breadth and depth of an artist who was a chief proponent of ‘direct carving’. Creating sculptures without preparatory models or maquettes was considered hugely avant-garde in Hepworth’s day, but her mastery of the technique is the reason we enjoy masterpieces such as Pelagos (1946).

Barnoon Hill, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1AD. Daily, 10:00-17.20. Time tickets must be booked in advance.

Bill Brandt/Henry Moore at The Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire
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The many parallels between the work of photographer Bill Brandt and sculptor Henry Moore are explored in this fascinating showcase of two men who were at the pinnacle of their craft. From the haunting ‘shelter pictures’ each captured during the Blitz of World War II to the crossovers in their subject matter, Brandt and Moore’s careers would frequently intersect.

This exhibition shows just how closely the two were aligned artistically, with mining, home life, the human body and the mighty Stonehenge providing inspiration for both photographer and sculptor. But it is Brandt’s photographs of Moore, some of which are on display, that bear witness to just how deeply interwoven their artistic bond became.

Gallery Walk, Wakefield, WF1 5AW. Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00-16:30, until 1 November.

Henry Moore Studios & Gardens, Hertfordshire
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Henry Moore, Oval with Points

For further insight into the subject matter that so inspired Henry Moore, a trip to his Hertfordshire studios is well worth making. While Moore’s family home remains closed, the studios and gardens in which he toiled for more than 40 years provide a stunning backdrop to the work of display from one of the UK’s greats.

You’ll have an opportunity to see the inner workings of Moore’s mind and gain a greater appreciation of his artistic practice by popping into the five of the six studios currently open. However, it is the bronzes that pepper the landscape – from Seated Women (1958-59) to Oval With Points (1968-70) – that are the real stars of the show.

Dane Tree House, Perry Green, Hertfordshire, SG10 6EE. Wednesday-Sunday, 11:00-17:00 until 1 November. Tickets must be booked in advance.

Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh
Britain'S Finest Sculpture Parks And Gardens To Visit This AutumnPin
Charles Jencks, Cells of Life (2003-10)

Rather aptly named to sound altogether otherworldly, this contemporary sculpture park and art gallery near Edinburgh is sure to get the cogs of your brain whirring. Providing an assault on the senses, this riot of colour, texture and form takes the medium of sculpture to the extreme, with a trail of artworks that are brilliant fodder for your Insta feed.

You’ll love the extremely photogenic Cells of Life (2003-10) by Charles Jencks, an undulating sculptural exhibit crafted from grassland, lakes and parterre that from above represents the division of cells into membranes and nuclei, while Antony Gormley’s substantial steel sculpture Firmament (2008) will make you feel small. Finally, be sure to look out for the reimagining of the works of American artist Allan Kaprow by a series of talented Scottish and international artists dotted around the park this month.

Bonnington House Steadings, Nr Wilkieston, Edinburgh, EH27 8BY.10:00-17:00. Timed tickets must be booked in advance.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire

Situated in the 500-acre estate of Bretton Hall in West Yorkshire, this countryside gem has played host to some truly awesome works of sculpture from a who’s who of world-renowned artists. That it is the only place in Europe where you can view one the last works Barbara Hepworth completed before her death – The Family of Man (1970) – should make YSP top of your list, but the sculptural hits just keep on coming.

Currently on display are four sculptures by Damien Hirst, monumental works by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos and your last chance to see Ai Weiwei’s 12 bronze Circle of Animals/Zodiac heads (until 1 November). But sculptural beauties aside, a walk through the park as the trees blaze with autumnal colour should be reminder enough that our greatest artist is perhaps nature herself.

West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG. Daily, 10:00-18:00 (parkland and formal gardens). Tickets must be booked in advance.

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