Nudes and Busts Aplenty - the Culloden Hotal Hosts Sculpture in the Garden

Watch video of world class sculpture that should not be 'confined to the white cube', says curator Lorraine Brett

The landscaped grounds of the Culloden Hotel are always beautiful, but from May 7-22 they are more stunning than ever.

In collaboration with Gormley’s Fine Art, the Culloden are hosting a unique outdoor exhibition, one of the largest of its kind ever held in Ireland.

There are 160 sculptures on display in the Culloden grounds. 100 of them are indoor pieces and can be found in a specially raised marquee, leaving 60 large pieces scattered throughout the grounds.

Curator Lorraine Brett has spent the last week installing the sculptures - by some of Ireland's most renowned artists - in their new, temporary home. It was delicate, nerve-wracking work and she is obviously relieved to have accomplished it without incident.

‘We have our beautiful Carrara marble half-life size princess,’ she says, pointing to a delicate white figure in front of the hotel. ‘Very heavy and very easily chipped. It took ten men to maneuver her into her lovely spot.‘

In addition to the pint-size princess, there are abstract sculptures of blocks and curves, statues of women (if you are easily shocked, be warned that most of them are naked) and animals situated decoratively throughout the grounds.

A reclining nude by Paddy Campbell is carefully positioned on a grassy slope so anyone walking down the nearby stairs catches sight of her. It is lifelike enough to warrant a double-take. In a nearby copse of trees a stag stands poised, head turned towards the people walking down the path towards it.

‘That’s the real purpose of our exhibition here,’ Brett explains. ‘Often sculpture is confined to the white cube and that isn’t where it should be seen. They are so many dynamics when you put it outside: how the sun reacts to it, how it glistens on the bronze and the vegetation around it. Outside, sculptures come alive.’

The exhibition, entitled Art in the Garden, came off the back of a similar show at Brackenstone House in Dublin in 2008. The show had an Italian theme, with ten Italian sculptors working with a selection of Irish sculptors. Howard Hastings, one of the owners of the Culloden, visited the exhibition and was intrigued by the concept.

‘And, of course, Oliver Gormley, being an Omagh gentleman and having a gallery in Belfast, knew the grounds and thought they would be spectacular,’ Brett explains, waving a hand at the sculpture dotted lawns. ‘They got their heads together and decided this would present sculpture at its best. It was a unique opportunity.’

For residents and visitors alike. When and where else would you have the opportunity to see work by Ana Duncan rubbing stone shoulders with Jarlath Daly’s shoal of bronze fish? Or see Michael Smyth’s whimsical, flattened 'Midsummers Goat' sharing grass with Cliodhna Cussen’s dynamic, bronze and granite 'Cumann do Cheangal an Corr'?

And don’t forget the work in the marquee, where you can see April Young’s extraordinarily detailed, socio-economic steampunk animals and Jonathan Aiken’s quirky mixed-media 'Camper Can'.

‘There are quite a lot of names here,’ Brett understates modestly. It is a stunning exhibition, one of the most impressive of 2011 to date, and the phrase ‘not to be missed’ was invented for it.

Art in the Garden runs at the Culloden Hotel, Belfast until May 22.