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7 of the World’s Most Remote Art Installations

In a world of blockbuster art shows and museum selfies, there is a need for the kind of art experience that connects the viewer more authentically with a place. These seven artworks—some by the very same artists who draw crowds to those headline exhibitions—may be tricky to get to, but there is an experience gained in the journey that you can’t quite get from a trip to your local museum.

1. THE LIGHTNING FIELD // CATRON COUNTY, NEW MEXICO

One of Walter de Maria’s most significant pieces of land art, The Lightning Field, is also shrouded in mystery. The work’s exact location, somewhere in the high desert of western New Mexico, is a tightly held secret. To get there, you have to make a reservation through the Dia Art Foundation, which maintains the site. In the tiny town of Quemado (about three hours from Albuquerque) you’ll be met by an employee who drives you 45 minutes to the site, where a simple cabin is set up to spend the night. No electronic devices are allowed, so that means no Instagramming. Visitors are instead encouraged to fully connect with the experience and to spend as much time as possible at the epic, shifting installation—particularly around sunset and sunrise, when golden light briefly reflects off the grid of 400 polished stainless steel poles.

2. INSIDE AUSTRALIA // ULARRING, AUSTRALIA

By Amanda Slater from Coventry, West Midlands, UK ("Inside Australia". Lake Ballard. WA) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Antony Gormley's work is committed to the exploration of the body and place and is usually based on metal casts of his own body. For Inside Australia, which is made up of 51 sculptures spread across the flat surface of (the usually dry) Lake Ballard, Gormley instead scanned the figures of residents of Menzies, the closest town to the installation site, 30 miles away. Menzies is about a two-hour drive from Kalgoorlie-Boulder, and 500 miles from Perth, however it’s common for the road to be closed following heavy rainfall. Visitors driving to the site also have to look out for “wandering livestock and wildlife.” Once there, you can camp freely at Lake Ballard, but must bring your own water and firewood.

3. NIMIS // HÖGANÄS, SWEDEN

Lars Vilks is no stranger to controversy; the Swedish artist has had a bounty on his head since he depicted Muhammad as a dog in 2007 and survived an assassination attempt in Copenhagen last year, which left one person dead. Before all this, Vilks declared the founding of the micronation of Ladonia in southern Sweden’s Kullaberg Nature Reserve to house his two huge unsanctioned art pieces, which the local council had threatened with removal. While becoming a citizen of Ladonia is easy (you just fill out an application form), visiting the two sculptures of Nimis, made from salvaged driftwood, and the stone Arx is a little trickier. From the Himmelstorps Hembygdsgård, a preserved 19th-century farmhouse inside the reserve, you follow occasional yellow arrows and Ns painted on trees, winding through the woods and up some steep climbs for around 30 minutes … or more if you get lost.

4. PRADA MARFA // VALENTINE, TEXAS

Veronique Dupont/AFP/Getty Images

This incongruous Prada storefront seen along a dusty road 26 miles northwest of Marfa (itself a three-hour drive from the nearest airport in El Paso) is, in fact, an art installation by Elmgreen & Dragset. The piece was installed in 2005 and, even though Prada licensed the use of its trademark and provided items from its collection, is generally interpreted as a critique of consumerism. Admittedly, it’s difficult to really use the term "remote" in reference to an installation that has been Instagrammed infinite times and Tumbl’d by Beyoncé, but getting to Prada Marfa requires just enough effort to make it count.

5. PUMPKIN // NAOSHIMA, JAPAN

In the last 15 or so years, the sleepy island of Naoshima in Japan's Seto Inland Sea has reinvented itself from a declining fishing community to a center for contemporary art and home to the Setouchi Triennale. Installations around the island include old homes that have been converted into art sites after being abandoned by the disappearing local population, a public bathhouse decorated with kitschy objects culled from the designer's world travels, and two large pumpkin sculptures by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. From Uno, in Okayama Prefecture, around two hours by train from Osaka, you can take a slow ferry across the sea to Naoshima, whose slow pace seems a world away from Japan’s frenetic mega cities. When you arrive, you can rent a bicycle to explore the installations dotted around the island.

6. THE STEILNESET MEMORIAL // VARDØ, NORWAY

Pierre-Henry Deshayes/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a long, lonely trek into the Norwegian Arctic, to the very end of the pan-European road E75, to find this piece. It is a collaboration between the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois (in what would be her final work) and memorializes the 91 women, girls, and Sámi men burned at the stake, on suspicion of witchcraft, 300 years ago. The breathtaking piece comprises a 410-foot-long Memorial Hall, at the end of which a steel-and-smoked-glass room, named The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved, houses a circle of mirrors reflecting a flaming steel chair.

7. SPIRAL JETTY // GREAT SALT LAKE, UTAH 

Spiral Jetty, a 1500-foot-long and 15-foot-wide coil that juts out from Utah’s Great Salt Lake, was inscribed into art infamy when, just two years after it was created, it disappeared underwater. A year later its creator, Robert Smithson, died at the age of 35, in a helicopter crash.

The water levels at Great Salt Lake had been unusually low in 1970 when Smithson created the work and so it vanished when they returned to their normal levels. Spiral Jetty reappeared in 1999, covered in salt crystals and its black color now improbably shining white. The piece still vanishes from time to time. Dia Art Foundation, which manages the site, states that it is visible when water levels are below approximately 4195 feet and advises bringing water, food, and waterproof boots, along with weather-appropriate clothing, when making the two-and-a-half-hour trip from Salt Lake City.

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Art Lovers in England, Rejoice: France's Famous Bayeux Tapestry is Coming to the UK
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of France’s most prized national treasures, the Bayeux Tapestry, is officially heading to England for exhibition. The loan will mark the first time the fragile 11th century work has left France in nearly 1000 years, according to The Washington Post.

French president Emmanuel Macron announced news of the loan in mid-January, viewed by some as a gesture to smooth post-Brexit relations with Britain, ABC reports. The tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a historically important event replete with guts and glory.

Stretching for 210 feet, the Bayeux Tapestry’s nine embroidered panels tell the tale of Harold, Earl of Wessex, who swore an oath to support the right of William, Duke of Normandy, to the English throne once King Edward (a.k.a. Edward the Confessor) died without an heir. But after Edward's funeral at Westminster Abbey, Harold breaks his oath to William so he could be crowned king instead. Believing he was the rightful ruler, William—today remembered as William the Conqueror—decides to wage war and ultimately defeats Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

The historical narrative has endured for centuries, but the tapestry's provenance has been lost to time. Experts think that the artwork may have been created in England, shortly after the Battle of Hastings, although it’s unclear who designed and embroidered the scenes. Its original owner, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, may have commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry. He became Earl of Kent after the Battle of Hastings, and this new title would have afforded him access to skilled artisans, The Guardian explains.

The Bayeux Tapestry is currently on display in the town of Bayeux in Normandy. It likely won’t leave France until 2020, after conservators ensure that it’s safe to move the artwork. According to The Telegraph, the tapestry might be be displayed at the British Museum in 2022.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.
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This Snow Sculpture of a Car Was So Convincing Cops Tried to Write It a Ticket
Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.
Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.

Winter is a frustrating time to be on the road, but one artist in Montreal has found a way to make the best of it. As CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reports, his snow sculpture of a DeLorean DMC-12 was so convincing that even the police were fooled.

Simon Laprise of L.S.D Laprise Simon Designs assembled the prank car using snow outside his home in Montreal. He positioned it so it appeared to be parked along the side of the road, and with the weather Montreal has been having lately, a car buried under snow wasn’t an unusual sight.

A police officer spotted the car and was prepared to write it a ticket before noticing it wasn’t what it seemed. He called in backup to confirm that the car wasn’t a car at all.

Instead of getting mad, the officers shared a good laugh over it. “You made our night hahahahaha :)" they wrote on a fake ticket left on the snow sculpture.

The masterpiece was plowed over the next morning, but you can appreciate Laprise’s handiwork in the photos below.

Snow sculpture.

Snow sculpture of car.

Snow sculpture of car.

Note written in French.

[h/t WGCL-TV]

All images courtesy of Simon Laprise.

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