Art can be found in some unlikely places. You simply need to know where to look.
In her new book, Escape arts, author Grace Banks takes readers on a world tour of some of the most unexpected locations to see art, from the depths of a jungle in central Mexico to the arid expanse of the Sahara. As a regular reporter on culture and the arts, Banks has spent much of her decade-long career cruising the continents in search of a good story, enabling her to get a first-hand look at some of the most inspiring artwork out there. The borders of museums and art galleries.
“Whenever I visit a new place, I am always on the lookout for the most remote and least known piece of art in the area,” Banks says. “By doing this, I found many great places…I kept thinking about how to make this book great so that people could inspire art as well as travel.”
The result was an art atlas of more than forty artistic escapes spread across six continents, including sculptures, installations, murals, and light projections. For every well-known place mentioned (Instagrammable Prada Marfa in Texas, for example), the banks are littered with many other artworks that are off the beaten path (the Steilneset Memorial in Norway and the Red House in England, for example), creating a must To be read for art buffs and travelers alike.
“I always kept a messy and slightly rambling iPhone notes list of all the places I’ve been and the smallest remote places I’ve been…so I reference that often,” she says. “The rest was a search, a search for high and low things – it paid off!”
Here are eight art destinations worth visiting:
Same Desert (El Gouna, Egypt)
To make or to invent the same desert, a million-square-foot artwork in the middle of the Sahara desert, artists Alexandra Strato, Dana Strato, and Stella Constantinides used a medium that was widely available to them: sand. Together, the three artists built mounds of sand of varying sizes, placing them side by side by drilling circular holes, all in a spiral shape. In the center of the lot is a water oasis of 280,000 square feet. The huge artwork is still viewable even in the decades since the artists finished it in 1997 – and will revisit it on satellite imagery via Google Maps. “at work, [the artists] I directed great landscape masters like Nancy Holt and Richard Serra, to create a perfectly formed vortex that would eventually dissolve into the ground,” Banks says. “Every year artists examine the work to see its continuing state of ruin.”
Tree of Utah (Toile County, Utah)
Driving east on Interstate 80 from Nevada toward Utah’s Greater Salt Lake, an unfamiliar sight can be seen from afar: an 80-foot tree. But the closer you get, the more clearly this is not an ordinary bush. Created by Swedish painter and sculptor Karl Momen in 1981, this colossal statue was inspired by the solitude he experienced during a cross-country trip that included passing through the surrounding desert and salt flats. The result is a concrete structure consisting of a trunk and branches bearing six colored balls that it covered with rocks and minerals indigenous to the state. “A believer’s tree in Utah is such an anomaly in the [Bonneville] Salt Flats,” says Banks. “He wanted to add a pop-art-inspired note to these plains and decided to create a memorial to Memphis Milan that could be seen from miles away.”
Barolo Church (Piedmont, Italy)
The colors used to paint the facade of the Barolo Chapel remind us of the rainbow selection of Crayola’s famous eight colored pencils. Designed by Sol LeWitt, an American artist known for his conceptual and minimalist artwork, the brightly colored unconsecrated church stands in stark contrast to the vineyards it overlooks in the Umbrian countryside. The structure is an excellent example of the artist’s ability to take space to the next level using a color-changing matrix of unexpected shapes. “This is one of my favorite works in the book,” Banks says. Sol Lewitt loved Italy, and established an art residency in Umbria, one of his favorite regions of the country. In the 1980s, he bought a chapel—initially built for Umbrian grape pickers to pray in—and changed his mind. [it] to a pop art paradise.”
Las Pozas (Ziletla, Mexico)
Dubbed “The Surrealist Xanadu” by its creator, the late British poet Edward James, Las Pozas is a fictional sculpture garden surrounded by a rainforest in central Mexico. Inspired by surrealist painters such as Salvador Dali, Dorothea Tanning, and Max Ernst, James put his pen to a chisel and hammer and, from 1949 to 1984, built an oasis made up of metal walkways, roaming staircases, concrete columns, waterfalls, and other details that seemed to have been picked straight out of the pages of a fairy tale. “James was a marginal member of the surrealist art movement,” Banks says. “He inherited a lot of money and on the advice of a model friend from New York he went to Xilitla Forest for vacation. He fell in love with it and decided to build Las Pozas, a surreal tropical sculpture garden.”
Yellow squash and red squash (Naoshima, Japan)
Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time browsing social media has likely discovered something by contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Famous for her use of bright colors and geometric shapes, her sculptures and installations deserve an endless stream of “likes” they get. While many of her creations are often part of traveling exhibitions, since 1994 a pair of Kusama’s giant spotted pumpkins, which look as if a hungry giant cut their hollow pumpkins down and forgot about it, have been a near-constant match on Naoshima. The Japanese island, which can be reached via a 20-minute boat ride from Takamatsu, is often called “the island of art” due to the diversity of its art museums, including the Chichu Art Museum and Project Art House. Unfortunately, the yellow pumpkin was damaged last year by a hurricane, and there are currently no plans to replace it; However, the red pumpkin is still on display. “The Kusama pumpkin is revived here on the island of Naoshima in Japan,” Banks says. “It was overturned by storms a year ago, but it’s still one of her most viewed acts.”
The Ideal Palace (Hauterives, France)
As a mail carrier in the late 19th century, Ferdinand Chaval spent most of his time delivering mail to some of the most rural outposts in southeastern France. On his travels, he often stumbled upon beautiful boulders and stones. Inspiration, in 1879, he began gathering enough materials to build the Palais Ideale on a family plot of land in the countryside outside Lyon. Constructed over a 33-year period and peppered with gothic spiers, towering archways, and whimsical statues, the 40-foot-high and 85-foot-tall mansion stands as true testament to what happens when someone fires their imagination. “Factor Cheval, or ‘Postman Cheval’ as he was nicknamed, passed by this plot of land for years before deciding to build a work of art on it,” says Banks. “Using everything from found objects to sandstone and shells, the self-made artist has created his own world here in the south of France.”
TeamLAB Planets and Acorn Forest (Tokyo, Japan)
Using digital technology such as projections and lighting design, teamLAB, a modern Japanese art group, is transporting visitors to other parts of the world from its museum in Tokyo. In the current exhibition called planets, viewers can become one with nature, walking barefoot through a field of flowers in one reflecting gallery, while in another, swirls of changing color gather from the ground. While the museum is teamLAB’s home base, the collection also has a second outdoor installation called Echo of life in the walnut forestLtd., which opened in 2020 in Musashino Woods Park in Tokorozawa, a city about 30 miles northwest of Tokyo. “TeamLAB has been innovating the art world since it began practicing 20 years ago,” Banks says. “oak forest It is what artists call a “living and breathing work of art” – a space populated with the same density of trees as it is by glowing digital orbs. “
Prem Selo Art Trail (Tongama, Australia)
While most people see the granaries as an agricultural necessity, Australian muralist Guido van Helten saw them as a blank canvas begging for a transformation. In 2015, he began painting portraits of eight farmers by hand on a set of GrainCorp’s 98-foot silos, in reference to the farming community in Victoria, a state in Australia where the silos are located. Thus other artists took inspiration from the work, adding their own artistic touches to the various silos in the area. The result is an art trail that attracts art lovers near and far from this rural part of the continent. On a former industrial plot, it is now a modern contemporary art destination featuring towering murals by Van Helten, [and street artists] Kave Ein and Adanat, Banks says. “in [124 miles]It’s Australia’s largest art space, outperforming the National Museums.”
Art Escapes (Available June 21, 2022)