Land art in the Alps: 9 must-see parks at high altitudes

Land art is more relevant than ever: in the mountains between Italy, Austria, and Switzerland you can find nine places that uniquely combine art and nature, human creativity, and landscape conservation.

“Nature has always been recorded by artists, from prehistoric cave paintings to twentieth-century landscape photography. I too wanted to make nature the subject of my work, but in new ways.”
Ben Tufnell (ed.), Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews, London 2007, p. 39

This quote by the British artist and land art pioneer Richard Long describes the beginning of a new chapter in the history of contemporary art, full of nuances and individualities, beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing to the present day.

Land art in recent decades has seen a renewed blossoming, thanks to the ever-increasing attention paid to the preservation of the environment and also to people’s search for contact with nature as an antidote to the hectic pace of modern urban life.

Dotted across the slopes of the Alps, many art sites have sprung up, aiming to give new life to a kind of art that is in constant dialogue with nature, through the setting up of residencies for artists and the foundation of art parks, where installations and works can be discovered following itineraries, wearing hiking boots or on skis depending on the season.

We have picked nine land art parks, at both high and low altitudes, to explore within the Alpine region across Italy, Switzerland, and Austria.

3-D Verbier Art Foundation, Bagnes, Distretto di Entremont

Founded in 2010 by artists Madeleine Paternot and Kiki Thompson, the 3-D Verbier Art Foundation is a nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to promoting contemporary art and environmental sustainability. Through its art residency program, artists from around the world are selected each year and invited to enjoy the nature of the Swiss Alps and work focusing on the issues of climate change and respect for nature. The foundation’s Sculpture Park, located at an altitude of 2,300 meters, is a pathway in progress that houses some of the works made by artists in residence over the years, including Helga Dorothea Fannon and Haroon Mirza, Olaf Breuning, James Capper, Onyedika Chuke, Gregory Coates, Tarik Hayward, Chloe Dewe Mathews and many others.

Art Public Plaiv, Zuoz, Canton Grigioni

Located just a few kilometers from St. Moritz is the region of La Plaiv, also known as “the other Engadine.” This wide valley is home to the works of the Art Public Plaiv project, carried out by the Institute for Contemporary Arts at Zurich University of the Arts, together with the Plaiv Business Organization (which includes the municipalities of Zuoz, S-chanf, Madulain, La Punt-Chamues-ch) and the Walter A. Bechtler Foundation. The heart of the trail is undoubtedly the small town of Zuoz (1700 meters above sea level): here you can visit James Turrel’s Skyspace, Piz Uter (2005), Tadashi Kawamata’s Felsenbad (1997), and Pipilotti Rist and Gabrielle Hächler’s Rote Bar (1997) inside the Hotel Castell. The hotel also houses its own contemporary art collection, with works by Carsten Höller, David Shrigley, Ross Sinclair, Thomas Hirschhorn, and many other artists.

Arte Sella, Borgo Valsugana, Trento

The connection between the artist’s work and nature is the guiding principle behind the activities of Arte Sella, a cultural association and social enterprise that, over the years, has created one of Italy’s best-known land art parks in Borgo Valsugana, in the province of Trento. The site-specific works, which blend seamlessly into the environment, are made mostly of natural materials by international architects and artists invited to participate and interact with the vegetation and landscape. The Villa Strobele Garden, the Montura Trail and the Costa Malga area are the three exhibition routes that can be explored to discover all the works in the park, including Kengo Kuma’s Bamboo Ring, acquired in 2022.

RespirArt, Pampeago, Trento

The Agnello ski slope in Pampeago, Val di Fiemme, offers a unique experience in winter: skiing while admiring the artworks of the RespirArt art park. A path about three kilometers long is dotted with installations created by numerous international artists in dialogue with the nature of the Trentino Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Numerous activities are organized by the park during the summer as well, to discover all the works of the project – born from the combination of materials such as wood, stones, earth – that live in symbiosis with the place where they are located, going through a process of continuous transformation thanks to the action of atmospheric agents.

Val dl’Ert, San Martino in Badia, Bolzano

Staying in the Trentine area but further north, toward Val Badia, among the beautiful Dolomites, we encounter the sculpture park Val dl’Ert, from the Ladin “Valley of Art,” the permanent installation that hosts sculptures selected from the different editions of SMACH, the public art biennial conceived in 2012 and this year celebrating its sixth edition. Works made by international artists are presented in the natural setting of an alpine forest, in a pristine environment where art creates a complementary and enriching relationship with the vegetation. A walk of about forty minutes at an altitude of over 1,200 meters to admire the works of Stefano Cagol, Kei Nakamura, Conor McNally and twenty other artists from around the world.

Art Park Verzegnis, Verzegnis, Udine

On the foothills of the Carnic Alps, where the Tagliamento River flows, lies Art Park Verzegnis, the contemporary art park created by Egidio Marzona, a German collector who was originally from Carnia. It is one of the largest collections in Italy, bringing together works of conceptual art, land art, arte povera and minimal art. Since the late 1980s, Marzona has invited many of the most important contemporary artists to create site-specific works for his park, which can still be seen today along with other works artfully placed along the route. Bruce Nauman, Richard Long, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner, and Carl Andre are just a few of the artists who have made Art Park Verzegnis a must-see for contemporary art enthusiasts.

Refuge D’art Andy Goldsworthy, Digne-les-Bains, Francia

Refuge D’art Andy Goldsworthy, Digne-les-Bains, Francia

More than an art park, Andy Goldsworthy’s Refuge d’Art is a work of art spread along a one-hundred-and-fifty-kilometer trekking route proposed by the artist, which stretches across the Alps of Haute Provence. It’s the English artist and photographer’s richest collection of perennial works, on a path developed in collaboration with the Musée Gassendi and the Réserve Naturelle Nationale Géologique de Haute-Provence. Along the trail are three huts that can be used by visitors, which the artist has renovated to accommodate hikers who decide to enjoy the 360-degree experience of slow, empathetic enjoyment with art and nature.

Parco D’arte Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Guarene, Cuneo

If you have time for a detour after spending a few days in the Piedmont Alps, it is definitely worth the visit to the Parco d’arte Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, situated on the hill of San Licerio in Guarene. 

A place of interaction and dialogue between nature and the works of international contemporary artists, which have found their place among willows, vines, cypresses and oaks, thanks to the design of landscape architects Lorenzo Rebediani and Vera Scaccabarozzi. Large-scale permanent sculptures by Carsten Höller, Marguerite Humeau, Marinella Senatore and Stefano Arienti, to name only a few, recall a contemplative and evocative dimension in which every visitor is invited to immerse himself or herself.

Austrian Sculpture Park, Graz, Austria

Nestled on the Styrian Pre-Alps in Austria, at the foot of the Graz Mountains is the Austrian Sculpture Park, designed in 2003 by Swiss landscape architect Dieter Kienast, with more than seventy sculptures made by well-known Austrian and international artists. Set among the vegetation of the seven-hectare park, the works are in conversation with their environment, and exposed to weathering. Fritz Wotruba, Franz West, Erwin Wurm, Jeppe Hein, Nancy Rubins, Tobias Rehberger, and Giuseppe Uncini are just some of the artists whose works have been featured in the development of this place that has become one of the most important centers for contemporary sculpture in Europe.

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