The best of outdoor art in Bucks and Oxon 2021
From Ai Wei Wei to street art and Henry Moore, we've rounded up the best temporary and permanent art you can enjoy en plein air (beret optional)
Get your art fix and enjoy the rays with these local gems in stately homes, public gardens and high streets… #nofacemaskneeded
Godzilla vs Kong in Wycombe
This Kaiju monster fight will be on display for two weeks only at Wycombe Arts Centre before it gets painted over. It’s on show as part of Bucks Art Weeks, which has a rather natty website showing all of its artist locations and trail maps by area. It runs 12-27 June. The artists displaying art outside (and the relevant number to search on the website) include Laurie Keck – 161, Vitreus Art – 257, Lindsay Waring Sculptor – 258, and R&B ceramics – 214.
The monsters are the work of the centre’s resident artist, Dan Wilson of Decreate. He’s also created a street art gallery along Desborough Avenue (above). Together with local artists he has painting the roller shutters of the shop fronts. Edgy street art in Bucks? Who needs Camden?
The dreaming sprayers
If that’s whet your appetite, there’s street art galore to see in Oxford, including three new murals that were created in Oxford during the pandemic. They are on George Street, Manzil Way and at The Bullingdon in Cowley and celebrate the endeavours of key workers along with communicating the ‘stay safe’ message (beats a leaflet any day). There’s a helpful resource here if you want to sniff out more street art, graffiti and public sculpture in the city and Oxford City Council has produced a map of public art too.
Blenheim behind bars
Blenheim Art Foundation has this week unveiled a massive golden cage by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, which will go on long-term view in the gardens. Gilded Cage is an interactive exhibit with a turnstile that is intended to draw attention to the international migrant crisis, and the constraints of life as a refugee.
Blenheim will also host its International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition on 7 June – 18 Aug showcasing the best of garden, plant, flower and botanical photography. And coming up, from July 9 will be an intriguing outdoor exhibition by Tino Sehgal. Don’t expect sculpture or even paintings… Sehgal is creating an interactive exhibit involving 30 local residents… We have no idea what to expect from this one except that it’s sure to bring the attention of the art world to Oxfordshire…
From the tropical forests to the Chilterns… a family of Indian elephants has made the grounds of Waddesdon Manor their home for the summer. The sculptures are made from steel and the dried stalks of a toxic plant. Called Lantana Camara, it was introduced by British tea plantations owners, but has now become invasive. The family were modelled on three real wild elephants from Tamil Nadu. They are there to highlight the issue of loss of habitats as part of the Coexistence campaign. Find the trio in the Pleasure Grounds until 31 Oct..
Alongside the temporary exhibition, Waddesdon has an impressive collection of 18-century sculptures around its grounds and fountains (above).
More recently it added its Lafite sculptures – two giant candlesticks by Joana Vasconcelos, adorned with Château Lafite Rothschild wine bottles, and Le Carrosse by Xavier Veilhan, which depicts a charging horse-drawn carriage.
Stately garden art
Buscot Park is a neo-classical National Trust whopper near Faringdon and what it exhibits inside by way of paintings, ceramics and sculpture is matched outside by the collection of modern and classical sculptures. They are all dotted around the 100 acres of woodland, lakes and formal gardens. The resident, Lord Faringdon, is often refreshing his collection, including adding a mirrored water feature called Faux Fall by sculptor David Harber and a sycamore sculpture that moves in the wind, by David Watkinson.
The Turrill Sculpture Garden in Oxford will kick off its summer season by hosting two sculptors – Louise Allison with her figurative clay sculpture and David Williams’ stone carving. The show is called ‘Heads and Tales’. The exhibition runs 5 June – 24 July from 9.30 – 5pm Mon, Thurs, Fri, and 9.30 – 1pm Sat and is free.
Local artists in the spotlight
Greys Court near Henley is filling its gorgeous gardens with all manner of sculptural eye candy in an exhibition to showcase local talent. The property has invited artists from The Oxford Sculptors Group, a gang of 90 established sculptors based in Oxfordshire and surrounding counties, to display their art between 12-18 July as part of Henley Arts Trail. Access to the exhibition is included in the cost of an admission ticket, so is free to National Trust members. And the best bit? If you are really taken with one of the, you can take it home (once you’ve paid for it, that is).
Just over the border…
The Cotswold Sculpture Park is a ten-acre site of forested land near Somerford Keynes in Gloucestershire that has a cafe and a series of outdoor sculptures that are available to buy. It’s open 10:30 – 17:00, 1 April – 31 Oct and closed Tues and Weds and it costs £7 to visit.
Henry Moore is one of the country’s best known sculptors for his monumental outdoor works. Many of his pieces have a permanent home at the artist’s former home and studios in Perry Green, Hertfordshire. The 70 acres of sculpture gardens and rolling fields in enough for any Moore buff, plus there’s six studio spaces a tapestry barn and cafe. It’s open 31 March – 31 Oct 2021, Weds-Sun and Bank Holidays, 11am – 5pm. Entry costs £12.25 for adults, £6.45 for kids.