The world is filled with astounding sculptures waiting to be discovered. They have the power to enhance the beauty and the charm of the places they inhabit, and to add value to the way we experience them.
Sculptures are story tellers, messengers that talk to visitors without words and help them to better understand its surroundings.
Enjoy now a selection of some of the most magical sculptures you can encounter in your travels.
“Dancing with Dandelions” by Robin Wight at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire (UK), 2018
Sculpture and nature blend magnificently together in the award-winning Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire, where 15 fairies dance with the wind thanks to the skillful hand of sculptor Robin Wight.
The latest of the fairies, Dancing with Dandelions can be found rotating in the wind, and as the grass grows she will gradually appear to be magically hovering above the bright, lush green scenery.
“Juodasis Vaiduoklis” (Black Ghost) by S. Jurkus y S. Plonikovas in Klaipeda (Lithuania), 2010
Near the Klaipėda Castle, just past the rotating bridge, there is a ghostly silhouette trying to get out of the water. This bronze sculpture is 2.4 meters high, and according to the legend everyone who approaches it will enjoy great fortune.
It is inspired by a legend that tells that in 1595 one of the castle guards, Hans von Heidi, saw a ghost in this place. The supernatural figure warned him that the city’s supplies of grain and wood might be insufficient, and the same way it showed up, it disappeared.
“Les Voyageurs” (The Travelers) by Bruno Catalano in Marseille (France), 2013
These surrealist sculptures by French artist Bruno Catalano were presented in the maritime port of Marseille in 2013, on the occasion of the appointment of this city as the European Capital of Culture.
On the one hand they symbolise the phenomenon of emigration, hence the enclave in which they are located; and on the other, the fragility of the human being when facing changes and challenges, which the artist masterfully represents through empty and unfinished spaces.
These bronze silhouettes change their effect depending on the natural light, the weather and the sky’s palette, which not only highlights their extraordinary and disconcerting beauty, but also helps fulfill the author’s intention to deeply move all those who visit them.
“Mustangs” by Robert Glen in Texas (USA), 1984
This impressive bronze sculpture set is located in Williams Square, in Las Colinas, a neighborhood in the city of Irving, Texas. It portrays a group of nine wild mustang horses at 1.5 times their real size, running through a watercourse with fountains giving the effect of water splashed by the animals’ hooves. The horses are intended to represent the drive, initiative and unfettered lifestyle that were fundamental to the state in its pioneer days.
“First Generation” by Chong Fah Cheong in Singapore, 2000
This bronze sculpture set was commissioned in the early 2000s by the Singapore Tourism Board. It represents five boys jumping into the Singapore River, and aims to portray the feeling of lightness that was once usual in the area. This playful activity was a common sight in the early days of the river, now surrounded by luxury hotels and corporate buildings.
Through his work, the artist reminds people about the importance of simple pleasures in life, and shows how much daily routine and surroundings in Singapore have changed over the years.
This sculpture is one of four pieces that form the “People Of The River” sculpture series depicting various historical scenes of people who lived and worked along the river. The other three pieces - The River Merchants, From Chettiars to Financiers and A Great Emporium - are also located nearby.
“A Day Out” by Marguerite Derricourt in Adelaide (Australia), 1999
These four charismatic and charming pigs located in the surroundings of Rundle Mall in Adelaide, enjoy a day out without paying much attention to the curious crowd around.
This sculpture was the winner of the Adelaide City Council’s Rundle Mall National Sculpture Competition in 1997 and was presented in 1999.
Its author, South African-born and Sydney-based sculptor Marguerite Derricourt, stated that she was partly inspired by Pietro Tacca’s 1612 fountain in Florence (Italy) known as “Il Porcellino” (piglet); a sculpture of a bronze boar.
The public loved the four pigs so much that there was a second competition, this time to name them. They are Oliver (standing), Horatio (sitting), Truffles (sniffing the ground), and Augusta.
Some people believe the pigs are meant to signify the shoppers at Rundle Mall sniffing out a bargain.
Jaume Plensa’s Sculptures
Jaume Plensa is a Spanish artist born in Barcelona, who is considered one of the top contemporary sculptors. His references include literature -especially poetry-, music, religion and thought. He considers himself a sculptor above all, although his creative process goes through diverse disciplines.
The interaction between his work and the audience and the entire city in general gives life to Plensa’s sculptures, which provide a peace haven wihtin the chaos and hustle of the city for people to gather, meditate, play or just enjoy a moment quietness.
His sculptures appeal to the very essence of the human being: to their physical and spiritual essence, their consciousness, moral codes and dogmas, and to their relationship with nature. Through his work, Plena aims to transmit a message of unity, hope and beauty, and promote unity despite all the barriers that often separate mankind.
“Force of Nature” series by Lorenzo Quinn
Lorenzo Quinn is an Italian figurative avant-garde sculptor, son of the Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn, whose work is inspired by masters such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Rodin, and transmits the artist’s passion for eternal values and authentic emotions.
“The Force of Nature” is a series of sculptures made of bronze, stainless steel and aluminum that represent mother nature as a woman throwing the planet hammer throw style. Quinn’s inspiration to create the series came after witnessing the destruction caused by hurricanes in Thailand and the south of the United States. The sculptures have been installed in many places around the world, from England and the United States, to Monaco and Singapore, and each of them is slightly different from the others.
Quinn says that his sculptures are reminiscent of the first statues made as a peace offering to the gods in hope of calming their anger.
“Freedom” by Zenos Frudakis in Philadelphia (USA), 2001
“I wanted to create a sculpture almost anyone, regardless of their background, could look at and instantly recognize that it is about the idea of struggling to break free. This sculpture is about the struggle for achievement of freedom through the creative process.” - Zenos Frudakis
The inspiration to create this impressive bronze sculpture sprang from a particular personal situation in the life of the artist. However, he was always aware that the need to escape certain situations - either an internal struggle or an adversarial circumstance - and be free from it was a desire we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives.
Although there are four figures represented, the work is really one figure moving from left to right. The composition develops in that direction, beginning with a kind of mummy/death like captive figure locked into its background. In the second frame, the figure, reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Rebellious Slave, begins to stir and struggle to escape. The figure in the third frame has torn himself from the wall that held him captive and is stepping out, reaching for freedom. In the fourth frame, the figure is entirely free, victorious, arms outstretched, completely away from the wall and from the grave space he left behind, evoking an escape from his own mortality.
“Architectural Fragment” by Petrus Spronk at the State Library in Melbourne (Australia), 1993
The weight of the books has sunk this library. The top corner of the building is peeking out from the sidewalk. The State Library is a historical landmark in the heart of Victoria, Melbourne. This unique piece of art was commissioned by the local council as part of the city’s art program and created by Dutch sculptor Petros Spronk.
It’s a nod to old college campus lore about failed architectural design. While the original story is about the crushing weight of knowledge students are expected to learn, the myth has evolved to gyms sinking due to the weight of the water in the pools or dorms sinking because of the students and their furniture.
“Apennine Colossus” by Giambologna, Florence (Italy), XVI Century
Vaglia is a small town of just over five thousand inhabitants that preserves a World Heritage Site as part of the set of Tuscan Medici Villas and Gardens: the Villa Pratolina, commissioned by Francisco de Médici to the architect Bernardo Buontalenti as a present to his lover Bianca Cappello.
Unfortunately, after the death of its owner, the place was abandoned and many of the sculptures that it contained were moved to Florence. But not all of the disappeared. There was one that remained in the original site given the impossibility of moving it: the so-called Apennine Colossus, work of the famous French sculptor Giambologna who created it as a homage to the Apennine mountains.
For his creation, he took advantage of a huge rocky outcrop on the edge of an artificial lake, and carved its outer part with the shape of a mountain god that seems to come out of the same rock. The figure is 10,5 meters high and hides a secret: the giant is hollow. In the location Giambologna chose for its creation there was a natural cave with access at the rear, which he extended creating several rooms distributed over three floors, with windows located under the giant’s beard and armpits. Originally it also included a chimney that made smoke come out of the rocky nose.
“Expansion” by Paige Bradley in NYC, 2003
“From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a container already built for us to fit inside: A social security number, a gender, a race, a profession or an I.Q. I ponder if we are more defined by the container we are in, rather than what we are inside. Would we recognize ourselves if we could expand beyond our bodies? Would we still be able to exist if we were authentically ‘un-contained’ “ - Paige Bradley
This was Bradley’s reflection during the creation process of this particular and striking bronze sculpture. A reflection that concluded with the sculpture as we see it today: a cracked work, which reinvents itself in a kind of bronze patchwork representing a woman meditating in the Lotus position.
It’s worth mentioning that the appearance of this piece isn’t accidental. Bradley had been moulding with plaster for months the figure of a woman meditating, and once it was perfectly finished she intentionally crashed it against the ground and broke it into pieces. At first she was shocked after witnessing what she had done, but little by little she picked up each of the fragments and reproduced them in bronze. With these pieces she created her sculpture paying special attention to leaving cracks between pieces.
With Expansion, the artist wants to show the human being as a being whose main destiny was to seek connection, but that only found alienation. This fragmented sculpture has become a symbol of the struggle against the self-inflicted limits that hide the great potential that is essential to all humans.
“The Rape of Proserpina” by Bernini in Italy, XVII century
Gian Lorenzo Bernini is considered the genius of the Italian Baroque, heir of Michelangelo’s sculptural force and the main model of architectural Baroque in Europe. One of his earliest and most famous works is The Rape of Proserpina, a 2.25 metre marble sculpture located in the Museum Borghese in Rome.
This sculpture set represents Pluto, king of the underworld, abducting Proserpina, daughter of Jupiter and Ceres. The myth tells that after the abduction, Proserpina was forced to live with Pluto.
Ceres went in search of her daughter because without her the flowers wouldn’t grow. Pluto and Ceres came to an agreement that serves as an explanation for the cycle of the seasons. Proserpina had to spend half a year in the world of the dead, and the other half under the sun with her mother. This is the reason why half of the year everything blooms and the other half it rains, as a consequence of the tears of Ceres waiting for her daughter to come back.
A curiosity of this work is that according to where the viewer is placed, the sculpture shows different scenes from the same story. If placed on the left, it represents the capture; if observed from the front, Pluto raises Proserpina like a trophy in his arms, and from the right one can see the tears of Proserpina crying out to the heavens.
But if something truly stands out in this work is how Bernini achieves the miracle of turning marble into flesh, making Pluto’s fingers plunge into Proserpina’s leg.
“The Caring Hand” by Eva Oertli and Beat Huber in Glarus, Switzerland
This original sculpture rising from the ground and gently wrapping its fingers around a tree sends a message of environmental responsibility and care. It’s located in the small yet stunningly beautiful region of Glarnerland, and curiously is located in one of the only two towns in the country where direct democracy is still practiced (by raising the hand).
“The Headington Shark” (originally named Untitled 1986) by John Buckley, Oxford (England), 1986
What would you think if somebody suggested to put a massive shark crushed in your roof? Well, radio presenter Bill Heine wanted to do something to liven his newly bought terrace house up, and his friend, the sculptor John Buckley, made it happen in the shape of an eight-meter shark which would sit on his roof, perpetually appearing as though it had just crashed into the house from the sky. The fibreglass fish, which became known as the Headington Shark after the Oxford suburb, led Heine, a local journalist and businessman, into a six-year legal battle with the local council.
It took three months to build and was finally erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Both Buckley and Heine wanted to make a powerful statement about the barbarity of war and the feeling of vulnerability and utter helplessness when disaster struck - Heine also really liked sharks, Buckley added.
The sculptor said he was once forced to swim through shark-infested waters after he broke a canoe in Mexico. “I was expecting the bomb to come out of the water. I was ready for the big bite. It’s just as bad as looking up at the sky and expecting something to come through your roof”, he said.
The property has been run as an AirBnB guesthouse since 2018.
“Rain” by Bilyk Nazar in Kiev, Ukraine, 2013
Ukrainian artist Bilyk Nazar used bronze, glass and stone to create this magnificent 1.82 meter sculpture, that holds many deep meanings.
His work can be interpreted in different ways, including the delicate relationship between humans and nature. In this case the drop of rain is a symbol of the dialogue which connects a person with a whole diversity of life forms.
“The figure has a loose and porous structure and relates to dry land, which absorbs water. In this work I play with scale, making a raindrop large enough to compare a man with an insect, considering that man is a part of nature. Moreover, this work concerns the question of interaction and difficulties in coexistence of man with environment”, says Nazar.
The position in which the sculpture is located, looking up, represents how we look up to the sky in search of answers to our deepest existential questions.
“The Silent Evolution”, underwater sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor in Mexico
Artist Jason deCaires Taylor grew up in Malaysia and spent his childhood exploring the reefs and islands that populated his local habitat. Eventually, his family moved to the UK and the scenario suddenly changed to one of abandoned factories and dilapidated railway lines. This change triggered the artist’s curiosity about the way nature reclaims human environments.
Taylor has spent has spent the latter half of his professional career placing his sculptures at the bottom of the ocean with the purpose of providing the building blocks for sustaining a rapidly depleting coral reef environment.
In 2009, he was commissioned to create the world’s largest underwater sculpture museum. Located off the coast of Isla Mujeres, the Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA), it features over 450 permanent life-size sculptures and attracts as many as 150,000 visitors a year.
The Silent Evolution is his most ambitious work to date. It gathers four hundred sculptures that represent people from all walks of life from a span of past decades. Algae, sponges and coral now cover nuns, small children, and the elderly upper class.