Some beautiful sculptures are well-known; almost everyone knows about Michelangelo’s David, or New York’s statue of liberty.
But some are hidden gems, waiting to be found by someone with a discerning eye.
So we collected 20 gorgeous statues from around the world to broaden your mind and brighten your day!
The Kelpies: These enormous horses, made of fabricated steel, were put up as part of the Helix “land transformation” project in Falkirk, Scotland. They’re meant to represent the history of Scotland’s industry and economy and, in sculptor Andy Scott’s words serve as a “socio-historical monument intended to celebrate the horse’s role in industry and agriculture.” Whatever a “sociohistorical monument” actually is, it’s sure a beautiful statue!
Monument to Joe Louis: Created in 1986 by Mexican-American sculptor Robert Graham, this sculpture is an unusual monument to a remarkable man. Louis is most famous for beating German boxer Max Schmeling in 1938. The fight was a blow to the German illusion of “Aryan superiority,” and Hitler was reportedly furious that Germany’s best had lost to a black man. Due to Louis’ outspoken campaigning against Jim Crow laws, Graham meant the fist to stand as a “battering ram” against racial injustice.
Maman: Louise Bourgeois’ most famous sculpture, a 30-foot-tall spider with 26 marble eggs, was made as a tribute to her mother. An odd choice to represent a beloved parent, perhaps, but Bourgeois said that she chose the spider because it was “clever,” and “helpful and protective,” like her mother was to her.
Metalmorphosis: Not only is this piece a mirrored fountain in the shape of a giant head, it’s a mirrored fountain with layers that slowly, continually rotate. Because of this, the face is only visible when all the layers line up perfectly, making this a statue with a secret. (David Černý)
Man on Fire: MUSA is an “underwater art museum” off the coast of Cancun, with the expressed purpose of encouraging coral growth and bringing attention to issues of conservation. Sculpted by artist Jason DeCaires Taylor, every one of the more than 500 beautiful sculptures in the “museum” are made of material specialized to promote coral growth.
Ash Jesus and Ash Buddha: These gorgeous statues of Jesus and Buddha, sculpted by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, are made from temple incense ashes collected in Shanghai. They were made for a temporary exhibit at One Central Mall, Macau, and they’re meant to get people thinking about the similarities between Eastern and Western religions.
The Headington Shark: A bizarre statue to call “beautiful,” perhaps. But the beauty of it lies in its meaning. Erected by homeowner Bill Heine on the anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings, the enormous shark is meant to represent the “impotence and anger and desperation” of modern people confronted by nuclear atrocities.
Bazalgette the Whale: This whimsical statue suggests a whale hidden beneath the grass of the park, with the grass mounded to suggest the whale’s nonexistent body. The most delightful part of the statue is the fountain, which spurts up every few minutes to mimic a whale’s spout! (Jim Adler)
Przejście (Passage, or, Monument of the Anonymous Passersby): This statue, by artist Jerzy Kalina, features 7 pedestrians slowly sinking into the ground and 7 rising up again on the other side of the street. It was unveiled on the 24th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in Poland, and it’s commonly thought to be a monument to those who were “disappeared” by the government during that time.
Fence and Border Interventions: Icy and Sot are a Brooklyn-based Iranian art duo famous for their political public art installations. This temporary sculpture, installed outside of Lot Radio in New York, is a response to American border control efforts and worldwide refugee crises. The sculpture, with its use of negative space and unusual materials, is as beautiful as it is thought-provoking.
Expansion: I started this list insisting that I wouldn’t put any nude women on it because God knows the last thing Western art needs is more naked women. But this piece, sculpted by artist Paige Bradley, was too striking not to include. When asked about the idea behind the piece, Bradley said, “I conceived this piece when I first moved to Manhattan. I was a bit startled by the power of the curators and the critics and how they all had an anti-figure slant on what they deemed show-worthy. I took a perfectly good wax sculpture – a piece I had sculpted with precision over several months – an image of a woman meditating in the lotus position, and just dropped it on the floor. I destroyed what I made. I was letting it all go. It was scary. It shattered into so many pieces. My first feeling was, ‘What have I done!?!’ Then, I trusted it would all come together like I envisioned”.
The Sibelius Monument: The monument was sculpted by Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen to pay homage to the nationally-beloved composer Jean Sibelius. The abstract sculpture, with its similarities to a pipe organ, has come in for its fair share of criticism. But, fifty years after it was first erected, it has stood the test of time.
Big Heech: This intriguing statue is one of many “heeches” sculpted by artist Parviz Tanavoli. In Farsi, “Heech” is the word for “nothing,” and Tanavoli has made sculptures, statues, and even jewelry items shaped like the word. When asked why the subject is so interesting for him, Tanavoli said, “I found there is so much in the Heech, that Heech is not nothing, Heech is something. Then later . . . I realized that there is so much meaning behind it and so many poets . . . have paid attention to this word and have used it and that is how it began.”
Mirrored Ziggurat: Artist Shirin Abedinirad has a fascination with mirrors, and many of her installations feature reflective surfaces that blend heaven and earth. In this Australian installation, Abeinirad was inspired by ancient Mesopotamian ziggurat temples to create “a staircase … to connect nature with human beings and to create a union of ancient history and today’s world.”
The Unknown Bureaucrat: Magnús Tómasson’s statue features a man in a suit with his upper half replaced by a huge block of stone. A commentary on the crushing tedium of the modern office job? A not-so-subtle way of calling bureaucrats blockheads? Whatever it’s meant to be, it makes the viewer laugh (and think).
Aurora Ice Museum: A year-round ice museum sounds like an oxymoron. But the Aurora Ice Museum in Fairbanks, Alaska is real and wild. Featuring beautiful sculptures by famous ice carver Steve Brice, everything in the museum is made from locally-harvested ice.
The Mustangs at Las Colinas: Sculpted by artist Robert Glen, the statue is meant to remember the wild mustangs that used to call Texas their home. Seen in person, the horses are actually 1.5 times the size of a regular horse. Glen created the illusion that these horses were moving by installing fountain jets at their feet.
Force of Nature: One of Lorenzo Quinn’s”Force of Nature” series, this stainless steel sculpture represents the power of Nature over our lives and the world. Quinn says that he started making these beautiful sculptures after seeing the impact of natural disasters in Thailand and the US, and sees them as “reminiscent of the early statues made as peace offerings to the Gods in the hope of quenching their anger.”
The Angel of the North: This British statue started life as a local eyesore, with locals worried that its dramatic presence would cause traffic accidents. Because of its hillside location, its foundation needed to be strong enough to allow it to withstand 100 mph winds, adding to the cost of construction. But now, the statue is locally liked (if not necessarily loved)
La Pouce: This 18-ton thumb, sculpted by César Baldaccini in 1965, sits in the middle of a Parisian park. Baldaccini was famous for his “resizing” of familiar objects, and this enormous thumb is riveting for both its size and its extraordinary, lifelike detail.