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Palm, Bronwyn Oliver
Photograph: City of Sydney

The best art you can admire while out and about in Sydney's parks

Our green spaces are chock full of gorgeous public art you can enjoy while you stretch your legs

Written by
Stephen A Russell
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Now that we can roam freely again, art lovers who enjoy a bracing stroll are spoiled for choice when it comes to combining cardio with a little culture. Sydney's streets are positively littered, in the very best way, with incredible public artworks and street art hotspots you can enjoy during your outdoor exercise.

Most of these urban artworks are located in built-up areas, but for those in search of some leafy relief from our city's streets, there are also a bunch of creative highlights you can take in while ambling around Sydney's parks and gardens. And that's just good for the soul. 

Here are a few of our absolute faves.

In search of more inspiring outdoor culture? Check out the 12 most beautiful architectural masterpieces in Sydney.

The best art you can see in Sydney's parks

Palm and Magnolia
Photograph: City of Sydney

Palm and Magnolia

Some of the best public art on display in Sydney’s parks looks like it literally grew there, sprouting up from the ground, a gloriously organic act of expression. Bronwyn Oliver’s twin sculptures Palm and Magnolia are prime examples. Formed from intricate tendrils of copper, they glow with life as if nourished by unseen roots. Installed in the Royal Botanic Garden near Farm Cove in 1999, the seed pod-inspired structures were commissioned for the Sydney Sculpture Walk, which marked both the 2000 Olympics and the 2001 Centenary of Federation.

The Footballer aka We Won
Photograph: City of Sydney

The Footballer aka We Won

AFL and/or NRL (or even soccer) wonks might want to kick a footy in the shadow of this perky chap, held high on his podium in Centennial Park. This sporting tribute was designed by Florentine-born Tommaso Sani, who became a big deal on Sydney’s sculptural scene, sometimes ruffling a few feathers. It was installed in 1893, and he has an honour guard of proud lions encircling his elevated vantage point. We’re not sure if that means he barracks for the Brisbane Lions, but if so, we won’t hold it against him.

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Yininmadyemi – Thou Didst Let Fall
Photograph: City of Sydney

Yininmadyemi – Thou Didst Let Fall

Girramay artist Tony Albert has spent his career pushing back against stereotypical representations of First Nations peoples, writing them back into narratives where others have tried to erase them. This towering work in Hyde Park South depicts four standing bullets and three fallen shells, honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women, and the oft-overlooked sacrifice they made. He was inspired by the stories of his grandfather, Eddie Albert.

Dragon Wall
Photograph: Flickr

Dragon Wall

As far as we’re concerned, the blooming lush surrounds of the Chinese Garden of Friendship, found at the southern end of Darling Harbour, are a work of art in themselves. How’s the serenity? They were designed by landscape architects and gardeners in Sydney’s sister city, Guangzhou, and opened to adoring Sydney crowds in 1986. The glazed ceramic Dragon Wall is just one of the many jaw-dropping moments you’ll discover while exploring this beautiful spot. 

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Memory is Creation Without End
Photograph: City of Sydney

Memory is Creation Without End

Like a graveyard for what once was, the haunting majesty of artist Kimio Tsuchiya's Memory is Creation Without End offers up the perfect spot for a quiet moment’s reflection. It collects sandstone fragments from architectural wonders long lost to the city, including a broken chunk of the old Pyrmont Bridge. Each of these stunning leftovers found their beginnings in the Tarpeian Way Quarry, the great rock seam you can still glimpse at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Thanks to Tsuchiya, they live on in a new form.

Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial
Photograph: City of Sydney

Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial

Sometimes beauty and power can be reclaimed from even the most horrific and senseless acts of horror. This deeply emotional memorial in Green Park, a short walk from the Sydney Jewish Museum, achieves just that. Artist Russell Rodrigo honours the memory of the LGBTIQA+ people who were murdered in the holocaust, by reclaiming the pink triangle used by the Nazis to mark gay men, and the black triangle for lesbian women. The glass platform and attendant poles reflect these symbols, and together they form the Star of David.

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Wuganmgulya (Farm Cove)
Photograph: City of Sydney

Wuganmgulya (Farm Cove)

Another gem from the Sydney Sculpture Walk selection at the Royal Botanic Gardens is First Nations artist Brenda L Croft’s terrazzo work Wuganmgulya (Farm Cove). Honouring her connection to Country, the earthen-coloured figures you can glimpse underfoot are inspired by Aboriginal rock carvings found around the city. Celebrating the survival of Culture, Croft, a member of the Gurundji Nation, also draws on imagery of the Yura Clan who lived on this land, as well as visitors from other clans who would gather at the Farm Cove corroboree.

The Sphinx
Photograph: City of Sydney

The Sphinx

These winged marvels of ancient Greek mythology – with a lion's body, human head and flacon's wings – stand sentinel over the Art Gallery of New South Wales, guarding the entrance to the Domain. Carved in bronze, and ageing beautifully with that instantly recognisable verdigris patina, they were a gift from the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens and popped in place in 1997. They’re actually replicas of a pair that once prowled the eastern side of Art Gallery Road. They get around, these two. 

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