It would be very nice just to put sculpture on hillsides or in small valleys – for everyone to enjoy,’ said the great British sculptress Barbara Hepworth. When she died, in 1975, her vision was just a pipe dream. Despite a fine sculptural tradition and countless acres of glorious parkland, there were no dedicated sculpture parks in Britain, just a few statues in the grounds of stately homes. Half a century later, what a lot has changed! Today Britain has loads of super sculpture parks, there’s bound to be one not far from you, and while visits to indoor galleries remain restricted, now is the ideal time to go.
Seeing sculpture in a sculpture park is completely different to seeing it in a gallery. Personally, I far prefer it. Of course, that’s partly because being out and about is so much nicer than being stuck indoors, but there’s more to it than that. Staring at a sculpture in an air-conditioned gallery, you can easily end up trying far too hard to think it through, rather than simply letting it wash over you. It becomes an intellectual exercise (never a good idea) rather than a sensual experience, which is what sculpture ought to be.