Have you ever strolled past a statue or sculpture and wondered what its story was? If so, you’ve gotten the point: Whether it’s intended to be serious or quirky, every installation has a tale to tell—some are even meant to comment on, commemorate or respect something or someone in a way that words cannot. Below, some of the most interesting outdoor sculptures from around the globe. See them for yourself!
“Carhenge,” located in Alliance, Nebraska, was built to imitate Stonehenge—the famous Wiltshire, England, landmark erected in approximately 2500 BC. Using 38 vehicles from the 1950s and ’60s, artist Jim Reinders and his family members built the replica in 1987 as a memorial to his father on farmland where the elder Reinders once lived. A dedication ceremony was held, appropriately enough, on the summer solstice in the year it was built, and Reinders later donated the automobile sculpture and its surrounding 10 acres of land to a locally formed group called Friends of Carhenge, who now owns and maintains it. Photo courtesy of Kevin Saff via Flickr.com.
Bratislava—the political, cultural, and economic center of Slovakia—was revamped with a batch of quirky sculptures in an attempt to revive the post-Communist-era grayness lingering within the walls of the historic Old Town section. This comical statue of a fictional man named Cumil with his upper body propped out of an open sewer is one such popular installation. Designed by artist Viktor Hulík and built within a pedestrian area in 1997, the statue is said by many people to reflect a look of post-war relief, while others believe it is simply flirting with under-the-skirt views of female passersby. Photo courtesy of Jon C. Schladweiler via SewerHistory.com.
3 “Le Pouce”
Extended amidst a business park of hotels, office buildings and shopping centers in La Défense, a commercial district just outside of Paris, is “Le Pouce” (a.k.a. “The Thumb”). The sculpture, created in 1968 of bronze and other natural metals by French sculptor César Baldaccini, is a replica of his own thumb and is approximately 38 feet high and weighs a little over 39,000 pounds. Photo courtesy of Paveita via Flickr.com.
4 “Le Passe-Muraille”
Created by the famous French actor Jean Marais, this mysterious sculpture—located in the Montmartre area of Paris—is based on author Marcel Aymé’s famous story "Le Passe-Muraille" or “The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls.” The story recounted the fictional life of a man named Dutilleul, a humble civil servant who at age 42 discovers he has a special talent for walking through walls. Photo courtesy of Diane Foulds via Flickr.com.
This not-so itsy-bitsy bronze spider by Louise Bourgeois is on display within the Gallery Plaza at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Dubbed “Maman,” the spider stands 30 feet high, weighs 18,000 pounds and carries a sac of 20 white marble eggs under her belly. Acknowledging a spider’s innate ability to fabricate complex and calculated webs, Bourgeois intended this sculpture to be an ode to her mother, who was a restorer of tapestries. Photo courtesy of Jordi.Martorell via Flickr.com.
6 “Man Hanging Out”
Czech sculptor David Cerný—whose work tends to be very controversial—created this life-size hanging sculpture of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. The work is meant to express the human dilemma of living life or letting go. Drawing police and fire-crew attention in response to reports of possible suicide attempts, the sculpture was last on display at Open Concept Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after touring other cities within the U.S. and Europe, and before being reinstalled in Prague’s historic Old Town section. Photo courtesy of aguyiusedtoknow via Flickr.com.
Simon Perry’s “The Public Purse”—a red granite and stainless steel sculpture of an oversized snap-close change pouch—is located in Melbourne, Australia, within the Bourke Street Mall. It was designed in 1994 as part of the city’s initiative to introduce unique public seating. The artwork is meant to work both conceptually and poetically by commenting on the commercial nature of its surrounding and the interaction between the city and its citizens. Photo courtesy of Ann via Flickr.com.
This infamous car spindle dubbed “Spindle”—which famously appeared in the film Wayne’s World—was located in the Berwyn, Illinois' Cermak Plaza until May 2008, at which point it was disassembled to make room for additional storefronts in the shopping center. Created by Dustin Shuler in 1989, the work stood approximately 50 feet high and included the following impaled cars from top to bottom: red 1967 Volkswagen Beetle; silver 1976 BMW New Class; blue 1981 Ford Escort; green 1973 or 1974 Mercury Capri; white 1978 Ford Mustang; maroon 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix; yellow 1979 or 1980 Ford LTD; and a black 1979 or 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis. Photo courtesy of Valerie via Flickr.com.
9 Traffic Light Tree
This tree of stoplights—located on a traffic roundabout near Heron Quays, Marsh Wall and Westferry Road in East London—was created by Pierre Vivant in 1998. According to Vivant, “the sculpture imitates the natural landscape of the adjacent London Plane Trees, while the changing pattern of the lights reveal and reflect the never-ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities." Photo courtesy of WWarby via Flickr.com.
“Vicissitudes” is part of the world’s first underwater sculpture park, created by artist Jason de Caires Taylor, which explores the intricate relationship between modern art and the environment, and dwells in the clear, shallow waters of Grenada. Located 5 meters below surface, this work is a circle of life-size figures—based on casts from an ethnically diverse group of children—holding hands. Transformed naturally over time by the aquatic environment, the underwater sculpture is meant to evoke ideas of unity and continuum while also actively promoting the colonization of coral and marine life. Photo courtesy of Jason de Caires Taylor via UnderwaterSculpture.com.
11 “Virgin Mother”
British conceptual artist Damien Hirst—known for work in which death is a central theme and who, in 2008, surpassed Jasper Johns as the world’s most expensive living artist—created this 35-foot sculpture depicting a pregnant woman with layers removed from the body’s right side to expose the fetus, muscle and tissue layers, and skull underneath. Real estate magnate Aby Rosen purchased this work in 2005, and put it on display in the plaza of one of his properties, the Lever House in New York City, until January 2008.