Outdoor Art:
Installations for the Season

Outdoor art presents a unique experience, showcasing the power of sculpture beyond the confines of the traditional gallery. In this round-up, we highlight this season’s must-see exhibitions, from Wakehurst’s celebration and stewardship of British meadowlands, to Compton Verney’s newly opened Sculpture Park that showcases the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick, Sarah Lucas and Larry Achiampong. Discover Steve Messam’s mesmerising temporary exhibition, Or, an installation comprising of 500 bright gold flags on Lowther Castle’s lawns, as well as Antony Gormley’s Time Horizon, a series of mammoth iron-forms embedded into Houghton Hall’s grounds. Plus, catch the final run of Damien Hirst’s quartet of sculptures at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, on display until September. Scroll through to discover more.

Meadowland | Kew Wakehurst | 14 June – 10 September

Across the 535-acre site, Meadowland at Wakehurst presents a series of specially commissioned art installations that will give voice to one of Britain’s most critically threatened habitats: the meadow. The outdoor show will celebrate the diverse wildflowers, grasses and organic forms that constitute these precious ecosystems. In The Wings Flutter, Grasslands are Alive, Saroj Patel creates five large gateways to form a shrine to the meadows. The Indian artist takes inspiration from the grasslands in her ancestral home in Gujarat, and the colourful shrines carved into the foothills of the Himalayas. Her gateways will be adorned with over 700 handsewn flags, evoking the colours of butterfly and moth wings, and the flowers they pollinate. Other higlights also include The Meadow Shadow, a ring of brightly coloured-cocoon like chairs installed in the heart of the Asian Heath Garden by multi-disciplinary designer Tord Boontje.

Sculpture in the Park | Compton Verney | Until May 2027

This Spring, Compton Verney has newly opened a major new UK sculpture park in its historic grounds in Warwickshire. Spanning 120 acres of art, nature and creativity, eight modern and contemporary international artists transform the Georgian setting, marking 20 years since the gallery first opened its doors to the public. On display is Louise Bourgeois’ iconic Spider (1996), a bronze sculpture over seven metres wide and three metres high. Other artists include Sarah Lucas, who often uses ordinary objects to challenge sex, class and gender, Turner-Prize nominated Helen Chadwick who challenges stereotypical perceptions of the body, Permindar Kaur, who commonly uses domestic items to question the meaning of ”home”, and British-Ghanian artist. Also on display is Aesthetica Art Prize Winner 2024 Larry Achiampong, whose work focuses on Pan African, future histories, speculative fiction and identity.

Damien Hirst | Yorkshire Sculpture Park | Until 1 September

The final run of Damien Hirst’s four sculptures at YSP is coming to a close after more than five years. Charity (2002-2003), features a young girl wearing a calliper and cradling a teddy bear, holding a donation box. The sculpture, based on charity collection boxes, questions outdated ways of depicting disability. The Virgin Mother (2005-2006), meanwhile, towers at 10 metres tall, drawing inspiration from Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer of Fourteen Years (1881). Hirst’s sculpture is split in two, one half depicting a naked pregnant woman, the other showing what is beneath the skin. Elsewhere, The Hat Makes the Man (2004-2007) comprises of felt hats and stacked pieces of wood, emulating a 1920 collage of the same name by Surrealist Max Ernst. Finally, Myth (2010), as shown above, presents a white unicorn with half of its skin flayed to reveal a vibrant pink underside. The work is part of a larger oeuvre that playfully nods to to art history.

Antony Gormley: Time Horizon | Houghton Hall | Until 31 October

British sculptor Antony Gormley is known for his interest in the spatial relationships between human bodies and the surrounding landscape. Time Horizon is an installation of 100 iron forms, each weighing 620kg, standing at an average of 191cm tall. The work, previously on display in Cantanzaro, Italy, now shows in the UK for the first time. Each figure is installed at the same level to create a single horizontal plane.. Some works are buried, allowing only a part of the head to be visible, whilst others reveal more of the body, permitting a view to the chest or knees. Gormley says, “‘My ambition for this show is that people should roam far and wide.  Art has recently privileged the object rather than the experience that objects can initiate.  Time Horizon is not a picture, it is a field and you are in it.  The work puts the experience of the subject/visitor/protagonist on an equal footing with all material presences, organic and inorganic.”

Steve Messam: Or | Lowther Castle | Until 6 May

Environmental artist Steve Messam is known for his temporary, eye-catching installations that are typically “bigger than a house.” Recognisable pieces include Spiked, a yellow inflatable structure inside The Temple of Piety at Fountains Abbey, as well as Hush, an installation that featured over 600 large saffron-coloured flags in the remote landscape of the North Pennines. In 2021, the artist was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize for this work. Messam’s latest installation takes the form of 500 yellow textile flags now on display at Lowther Castle, Cumbria’s vast south lawns. The title, Or, is taken from the old heraldic name for gold and synonymous with the history of Lowther. The display forms a centrepiece of colour on a monumental scale, particularly at a time of year where there is little else in the garden. The movement of the flags, meanwhile, will add to the experience of play, ensuring that no two moments are ever the same.

Image Credits:

Antony Gormley, Time Horizon, 2006, cast iron, 100 elements, each 189×53×29 cm. InstallationHoughton Hall, Norfolk, 2024. Photographed byPete Huggins.

Wakehurst Bloomers Valley Mowing © RBG Kew.

Sculpture in the Park-PAN AFRICAN FLAG FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS’ ALLIANCE,Larry Achiampong. © Compton Verney. Photo by Jamie Woodley

Damien Hirst, Myth (2010), Yorkshire Sculpture Park © Damien Hirst. Image: Paul Drummond

Steve Messam ©, Or, Lowther Castle, 2024.