One of Europe's most prestigious sculpture parks is located in Umeå, in the Umedalen district.
The Umedalen area was established in the 1930’s as a mental hospital, but was phased out and sold by the County Council in 1987 to the real estate company Balticgruppen. They chose to transform the former health care institution to a modern and appealing location for different corporations. A part of this vision was to change the reputation of the area, which previously had been rather charged. This was achieved in collaboration with Galleri Andersson/Sandström, and the art project Umedalen Skulptur. The gallery being responsible for the artistic content, and Balticgruppen funding the project. The first exhibition was held during the summer of 1994 and became such a huge success that it became a summer tradition, with different outdoor sculpture exhibitions every year until 2000. Since then, biannually. Over the years, 200 prominent artists, both Swedish and international, have exhibited their work in the Umedalen park. Balticgruppen have progressively bought a selection of the sculptures exhibited, which means that there is now an impressive permanent sculpture collection in the park, with works by Miroslaw Balka, Louise Bourgeois, Tony Cragg, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Clay Ketter and many more.
With Umedalen Skulptur, the park is currently one of the county’s main attractions with more than 20,000 visitors each summer. Umedalen Skulptur is truly unique in its high quality of artistic content. The internationally renowned artists represented in the park are usually met in top museums and art biennials all over the world, not in the everyday space among the northern pines. The park is also rare in that it is an entirely privately funded initiative. Is open and accessible to everyone anytime, all year long, and no entrance fee!
Umedalen Skulptur has received considerable attention and numerous awards. These include the Swedish Magazine Association’s “Best European Art Event in Sweden” in 2000, the Culture and Trade Industry’s first prize for “Best Cultural Sponsorship” in 2004, the Council of Urban Planning's award for “Best Art and Design in the Public Domain” in 2006, and the Umeå region “Tourism Award” in 2007.
In the summer of 2012, Umedalen Skulptur has, for the first time, focus on one single artist: Jaume Plensa from Barcelona. New works will be presented throughout the park and also indoors at Galleri Andersson/ Sandström. Jaume Plensa ranks among the world's most important contemporary sculptors. Breaking the tradition of group shows is will present the artists diversity in much larger scale.
Umedalen Skulptur is free to the public during all hours. However, it is possible to book guided tours. Do so by contacting Galleri Andersson/Sandström.
Other points of interest in the Umedalen area are: The unique garden created by Ulf Nordfjell, one of Sweden’s best landscape architects. The garden is wholly shaped around the natural conditions of its geographical location. There, you’ll also find the IKSU Spa, Sweden's only cultural spa, which opened in 2003. Bistro Le Garage is another recommendation, a quality restaurant specializing in experimental dishes, made from organic, often local ingredients.