Road Trip Across the World’s Most Bizarre Sculpture Parks

29 de May de 2023

Travellers often envision museums and galleries when they wish to get their fill of art while on holiday, but more and more people are now ditching the often crowded indoor spaces and heading outdoors to appreciate art in nature.

Humans have long been fond of creating so-called sculpture gardens or parks, with evidence being discovered that even our early human relatives the Neanderthals were arranging stalagmites in and around caves of France.

Sculpture gardens were also popular with royalty, with famous nobles and rulers such as Henry VIII, Louis XIV, and the Medicis of Florence all placing sculptures on the grounds of their palaces.  Public sculpture parks have now become a rather common site in many cities around the world, where you can enjoy a picnic, do a bit of yoga, or simply work on your tan beneath some rather impressive and sometimes unusual works of art.

While Australia may offer places like Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden or Sydney’s annual Sculptures by the Sea coastal walk in the spring, there are other countries that offer up sculpture parks that feature some truly bizarre works of art that are definitely worth checking out.

Just remember, you don’t have to be artistic yourself to be able to find the travel insurance policy to suit your specific needs the next time you wish to visit one of these eccentric sculpture parks 

Parikkala Sculpture Park, Finland

In the woodlands of Southern Finland near the country’s border with Russia, lies a sculpture park that may just give you a few nightmares. The creation is the work of a reclusive man named Veijo Rönkkönen who has since passed, having created more than 500 bizarre statues in his lifetime that were placed around his property.

While a Finnish businessman may have purchased the land with its many bizarre sculptures, the public is still allowed to make a stop during a Finnish road trip to see this truly one of a kind site. The collection mainly consists of all kinds of human statues depicting nuns, sailors, gymnasts, children, cave people, Ancient Greeks, and much more.

There are also many other sculptures besides Rönkkönen’s peculiar people of the forest. You’ll find various animal sculptures such as owls, an ostrich, and even a kangaroo to make us Aussies feel a bit at home.  There is even a large T-Rex lurking in the forest.

Victor’s Way, Ireland

An hour south of Dublin lies a privately owned sculpture park that is only open to adults during the summer months. The rather large property contains dozens of large black granite and bronze sculptures that are each spiritual in nature and look to teach observers important aspects of human nature.

The collection of sculptures is the vision of Victor Langheld who travelled throughout Asia in search of spiritual enlightenment which is showcased by his works of art. While he designed the sculptures, they were actually created by artists in India.

The reason behind there being an age restriction and now entrance fee to view the sculptures is not only for the fact a few statues are a bit risqué in nature but also that Langheld thought his private sculpture park was becoming too touristy and that children and families were not truly appreciating the meaning of his creations.

The sculptures are meant to be viewed by visitors experiencing dysfunction or a crisis in their life. It is a place to mediate and find enlightenment. 

You first enter the park through a large vagina dentate before then moving onto several sculptures depicting the Hindu deity Ganesha, unusual portrayals of Buddha, a giant cobra serpent throne, and even a giant solitary finger pointing to the sky. Each sculpture has a deep meaning behind it. 

Galleta Meadows Estate, California USA

Take a drive two hours northeast out of San Diego to Borrego Springs where you will discover a sculpture park in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Well over a hundred large rust-coloured metal sculptures depict a range of prehistoric beasts that once roamed the local lands as well as extant desert species and mythical creatures.

The works of art were created by Mexican artist Ricardo Breceda who was commissioned by a wealthy local to construct the many sculptures that can be found widely scattered throughout the town. You can easily pick up a map of where to find the various sculptures at the visitor centre or select local businesses.

The sculptures can be viewed up close by taking short walks from the paved roads throughout town. You will come face to face with large metal prehistoric elephants, giant ground sloths, sabre-toothed cats, dinosaurs, scorpions, dragons, and more.

The sculptures depicting prehistoric beasts allows a peak at what life may have once looked like in California long ago, with many fossils of such beasts being uncovered in the famous La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles just three hours from the sculptures.

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Norway

The hundreds of sculptures that are spread out across Oslo’s Frogner Park are said to make up one of the world’s largest sculpture parks. The sculptures are mainly statues of naked figures portraying all ages, spread out over 80 acres.

This free public attraction which can be viewed any time of the day is one of Norway’s most celebrated. All the sculptures can be credited to Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, who created these human figure studies out of bronze, cast iron, and granite.

The sculptures offer insight into human life by portraying nude figures from infanthood to adulthood. They depict figures displaying various human emotions, struggles, and situations that many of us may be able to relate to.

If you are not easily offended by nudity, you can learn to really appreciate the symbolism of the sculptured works of art. Some of the most famous works include the towering monolith of over a hundred intertwined nude human figures, a large nude man being attacked by a gang of babies, an angry nude child having a tantrum, and the many sculptures along the bridge.

Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India

A true example of how waste can be transformed into art, the Rock Garden of Chandigarh in Northern India is a truly unique collection of thousands of sculptures. It is the work of self-taught Indian artist Nek Chand Saini who actually started erecting his creations on what was considered to be protected conservancy land and therefore illegal.

His sculptures lay hidden from authorities for nearly 20 years before his secret sculpture park was threatened to be demolished once it was discovered. It was thankfully allowed to remain and has gone on to become one of the country’s most beloved attractions that is visited by thousands of people daily.

The sculptures were created using a mixture of sand and cement mixed with recycled materials. Bits of discarded waste were then added to the outside of the sculptures to give them a colourful mosaic-like appearance.

Many of the sculptures are statues depicting human figures but there are also numerous animals. The park’s many steps, terraces, and walls have also been constructed using the same technique of using cement and discarded waste. Waste such as broken dinnerware and glass bottles, tiles, mirror chards, bits of wire, pipes, and any other bits of refuse the artist could get his hands on were also used.

MUSA Underwater Museum of Art, Mexico

You’ll need to get a bit wet to visit this sculpture park since it sits below the ocean. MUSA is an underwater museum that contains hundreds of mainly human figure sculptures that lay permanently fixed to the seafloor roughly 5 to 10 metres below the surface off the coast of Cancún.

It is the creation of British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor who is also credited with creating the first underwater sculpture park known as Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park near Grenada in the Caribbean.

Not only is Cancun’s underwater sculpture park an adventure to witness, whether it be through scuba diving and snorkelling or a glass bottom boat ride, it is also helping to conserve the environment and combat local mass tourism.

The attraction acts as an artificial reef that has been effectively luring tourists away from the local fragile Mesoamerican Reef. The human statues that make up the underwater sculpture park promote coral growth and create a safe environment for many fish and other marine species to thrive, having been constructed using specialised pH-neutral marine concrete.