Sculpture Parks and Art Destinations in Asia
The world’s most beloved art destinations often integrate environmental beauty and the man made. Especially in Asia, the concept of sculpture parks and art destinations have taken off in recent decades. Here we have compiled a list of highlights: historical landscapes and structures across the Asian continent that have turned into major tourism attractions for art lovers.
Thanks to the developments of art-savvy businessman Soichiro Fukutake, in 1990 a remote archipelago in Japan's Seto Inland Sea was transformed into one of the world’s most unique destinations for adventurous art lovers and high-profile collectors. Nicknamed “Japan’s Art Island,” Naoshima is home to the Chichu Art Museum; the Ando Museum; the Lee Ufan Museum; the Minamidera James Turrell gallery; kitschy art bathhouse ILoveYu; and several other colorful galleries and installations. Naoshima’s famed Benesse House museum-hotel is home to works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, David Hockney, Richard Long, Shinro Ohtake and more. A short walk from Benesse House is Yayoi Kusama’s massive “Kabocha” sculpture: an emblem of the island.
The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace
India’s first contemporary sculpture park, founded by the nonprofit Saat Saath Arts and the government of Rajasthan, synthesizes the traditional and the contemporary, honoring Jaipur’s creative heritage while also supporting living artists. Located in the historic Nahargarh Fort, the ancient palatial architecture serves as a unique backdrop for the Sculpture Park’s large-scale contemporary artworks, many of them site-specific. Exhibitions blending Indian and international artists are organized on a yearly basis, with works specifically chosen to complement the Nahargarh scenery and park complex.
798 Art Zone, Beijing
When East Germans built this Bauhaus-style military complex in Beijing in the 1950s, they were laying the foundations for China’s most progressive art district, the 798 Art Zone. When Chinese troops moved out of decommissioned 798 Factory in the 1990s, contemporary artists moved in, transforming the factory zone into a hotspot of modern art, culture and design. Several top-tier galleries have set up shop in the complex. Outside gallery walls, street art abounds: murals of Maoist mantras, Socialist sculpture, graffiti and public art installations pepper the industrial alleyways. It is also the site of the 798 Art Festival, which takes place from the end September to October.
Jeju Love Land, Korea
Seoul, South Korea, is home to seemingly infinite art spaces. And yet its most infamous arts institution is Jeju Love Land, an outdoor sculpture park on sunny Jeju island. Exhibition halls that house the park gift shop and indoor gallery are modeled after traditional Korean architecture, but little else of the park is “traditional.” Created in 2004 by a group of 20 Seoul artists, Love Land is one of the world’s only sex-themed art parks, with phallic and vaginal sculptures dotting the grounds, sex education films, and artistic representations of nearly every sexual position imaginable. Jeju Loveland is 18+, but includes a play area for minors while adults enjoy an over-the-top and uniquely explicit art experience.
Hanoi Ceramic Road, Vietnam
The largest ceramic mural in the world, the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural runs along the walls of the Red River dike system. Begun in 2007, the mural’s completion in 2010 marked the millennial anniversary of the city of Hanoi. That same year, the Hanoi Mosaic Mural was awarded a Guinness World Records certificate for the world’s largest ceramic mosaic, with a length of around 4 kilometers. With hundreds of scenes telling a visual narrative of Vietnamese history, the ceramic road reflects the vibrancy and complexity of Hanoi.
NuArt Sculpture Park, Indonesia
NuArt Sculpture Park is a 7.5-acre public art space established to exhibit the works of prolific Indonesian sculptor Nyoman Nuarta, from the beginning of his career to his latest works. Designed to nurture the development of Indonesian art, design and culture, the park and its curator hold spaces for guest artists to showcase work. Nuarta’s workshop as well as a multi-story gallery space are continuously open for inside viewing. Indoor and outdoor theaters hold performances yearound, while over 300 of Nuarta’s monumental metal works dot the lush green landscape of the park.
Hakone Open Air Museum
Opened in 1969 as Japan’s first open-air museum, the 70,000 square meter Hakone Open Air Museum is a 90 minute train ride from Tokyo. The Museum aims to establish a harmonious balance between nature and art, exhibiting hundreds of sculptures against the backdrop of Hakone’s verdant valleys and mountains. The museum’s landscape is decorated with the sculptures of Henry Moore, Rodin, Joan Miro, Antony Gormley, and more, alongside multiple large exhibition halls dedicated to artists like Pablo Picasso. Several shops, cafes, kids spaces and even a public foot-bath overlook the natural views and art installations.
National Palace Museum in Taiwan
The over 700,000 eclectic treasures housed within the Taipei National Palace Museum’s walls have long, tumultuous histories. The Museum’s holdings begin with the art collection of the Song dynasty, added to by subsequent generations, and kept by 5,000 years of Emperors ruling the Forbidden City. The collection was tucked away in Beijing for several centuries before its rehousing in the sprawling National Palace Museum, designed in the style of a Northern Chinese palace. Exquisitely carved jade masterworks from the Qing dynasty and Ming dynasty master scroll paintings alone are worth the trip, not to mention the Museum's picturesque 200 acre grounds, featuring gardens, secluded pavilions, and koi ponds.
Theam’s House and Artisans d’Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Nearby the Angkor Wat temple complex is the artisan underbelly of Cambodia. Theam’s House aka. Theam’s Gallery is the elegant home-and-garden-turned-gallery of Master Cambodian Artist, Lim Muy Theam. Theam’s Gallery trains local artisan apprentices, showcases Cambodian painting and sculpture, and houses an impressive private collection of local artifacts. Artisans D’Angkor is also situated nearby: an arts space and social organization creating job opportunities for young people in rural areas, while reviving traditional Khmer craftsmanship.
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Aside from the foliage and floral displays, the award-winning Gardens by the Bay park is home to a large collection of international sculptures. Prominent artists appearing on the park’s sculpture walk include Marc Quinn, Manolo Valdés, teamlab, and Singapore artists like Eng Siak Loy and Chong Fah Cheong. Highly-manicured cultural gardens are speckled with huabiao, ceremonial Chinese stone totems, and ancient sculptural rock formations sourced from Shandong, China. Gardens by the Bay was intended to be Singapore's premier urban outdoor recreation space, and stands as a Singapore national icon.
The Rock Garden of Chandigarh
The city of Chandigarh, India, is famous for its rock garden, home to 2,000 statues and welcoming 5,000 visitors daily. Also known as Nek Chand’s Rock Garden, its founder Nek Chand was a government official who started the garden secretly in his spare time in 1957. The sculptures scattered throughout the park are built entirely of industrial and home waste and discarded items: bottles, glasses, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks and electrical waste. Apart from sculptures, this garden also has several interlinked waterfalls and green space.
TANK Art Park, Shanghai
Following six years of construction, OPEN architecture’s highly-anticipated TANK Park solidified its place as a new cultural complex in Shanghai’s contemporary art scene. Located on the Huangpu River, the site was previously an abandoned airport before its renovation into an arts museum and open park. The industrial site housed massive aviation fuel tanks that OPEN architecture sought to repurpose into “containers of culture,” paying tribute to the area’s past. Each of the tanks has a different use: one of the tanks is used for live music performances, while three others serve as art and cultural exhibition spaces, and one houses a restaurant. TANK was inaugurated with a teamlab exhibition “Universe of Water Particles in the Tank,” along with group show “Under Construction” of contemporary Chinese artists, and a solo show of Argentinian sculptor Adrián Villar Rojas.