What makes art in nature so pleasing? Why are the most interesting sculpture parks mainly created by private individuals, that is to say, art collectors and artists? What is their aim? And lastly: What makes a sculpture park special today?
A striking number of new sculpture parks have been created since the 1980s, not only in Europe and the United States but also in Asia, South America, Africa and Australia. ‘Green maze’ instead of ‘white cube’, in other words, art in nature rather than in traditional exhibition spaces: this is the latest trend in the art world. At biennials and major exhibitions, at art fairs and in private collections there are more and more outdoor sculptures and installations.
The fact is that outdoor sculptures have conquered the art market and there is a huge demand for them. The majör auction houses and galleries even print their own catalogues and hire splendid parklands in order to display works to potential buyers who might be thinking of creating their own private sculpture parks. Because art – and sculpture in particular – is seen in ever-larger formats. Sculpture, in the form of installations, often occupies entire rooms, to the extent that some can only be shown outside.
This is a challenge that publicly run museums and institutions, with their chronic lack of space and funds, can scarcely rise to. With so many museums occupying expensive city-centre sites it is rarely possible to build extensions and any outside space is generally strictly limited. And that is where the collectors – sometimes even the artists – step in, many of whom are fascinated by the potential of art in landscape settings that provide the scope for large-scale spatial experimentation, free interaction between the viewer and the work of art, a dialogue with different landscapes, changing seasons and weather conditions, close contact between the client and the artist.
Since the theme of a sculpture park is generally closely connected with the personality of its initiator, I soon decided to concentrate on sculpture parks that were founded by individuals: art collectors who also have a love of nature, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and garden designers with a passion for art, and of course artists, too. All are visionaries; some may even be described as eccentric. Their goal in their life’s work is to realise certain ideas through the medium of an art project in natural surroundings and, in so doing, to make their own, enduring mark – sometimes with a light touch, sometimes with deadly seriousness, sometimes with supreme intellectualism.
In an era such as our own, which has been coloured by urbanisation, industrialisation and environmental pollution, the unprecedented, enduringly high level of interest in all things horticultural, in nature and ecology is readily understandable. And so it makes perfect sense to place art in natural settings, particularly since nature is itself the original, perfect, multifaceted work of art. Above all, when works made by human hand are presented in a natural setting, it is essential that there is a balanced relationship between art and nature. Ultimately this balance is seen in all the sculpture parks that feature in this book. As a passionate art collector and garden lover, I would like to introduce my readers to a selection of particularly pleasing combinations of art, nature and a unique theme, and provide a source of inspiration in the very individual histories of these widely varied projects.