Cardiff Bay’s Outdoor Art Gallery

One of the aims of Cardiff Bay’s development was to create a vast open-air art gallery of public sculpture. The idea was to have modern, accessible images that would inspire and engage with visitors to the area. This they have achieved and so much more as the bay and surrounding area are full of imaginative and thought provoking sculptures for anyone touring the foreshore to admire.

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The artworks come in a variety of materials from ceramic tile, wrought iron, stone, cast bronze and wood and ranges for the largest building to the smallest bench. There are also fabulous exhibition spaces too such as the Crafts in the Bay gallery and the Old Norwegian Church and the futuristic, Millennium Arts Centre, which also provides areas for the occasional show.

People, Places and Work

People Like Us

The works celebrate Cardiff’s people, famous contributors and the stories that made Cardiff great. There are statues to the multicultural heritage of the Docks, memorials to the sailors and Scott of the Antarctic as well as a tribute to Ivor Novello and local hero, Captain Ernest Willows who pioneered balloon flight.

Sculptural Buildings

There are illustrations to poems, strange optical illusions and plenty of ships and sails. Many of the buildings around the bay have a sculptural quality to them as well. Many demonstrate a nautical feel, the waves of the Atlantic Wharf Entertainment Centre, the Atradius building shaped like a ships prow or the sails on top of the St David’s Hotel.

Millennium Arts Centre

One of the most sculptural buildings is the Millennium Arts Centre, with its slate sides echoing the cliffs of South Wales and the quarries in the north. The golden copper façade is inscribed with tall, towering letters over the entrance.

Waterside Statues 

The most popular sculpture can be found at Mermaid Quay, “People like Us” explores the diverse, multicultural nature of old Cardiff Docks and has a couple with their dog standing looking out over the fresh water lagoon as if posing for a family photograph.

Knot

Other groups of people remembered in bronze around the bay are the original Celts with a large Torc necklace by Harvey Hood at Roald Dahl’s Plass, the Miners represented in John Clench’s piece “From Pit to Port” in Britannia Park and the work of the Dockers is celebrated with Andrew Row’s 2000 sculpture “Rope Knot” in car park behind Techniquest and “Ship in a Bottle” by Melissa Gibbs at the end of Windsor Esplanade.

Seamen’s Memorial

Lost at Sea

The more poignant work is the touching memorial created by Brian Fell to the sailors of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives crossing the Atlantic Ocean during the Second World War. This wonderfully tender piece features a face at peace that morphs into the hull of a ship as you walk around it.

Swiss artist Felice Varini has created a mind boggling optical illusion on the Cardiff Bay Barrage. Taken in isolation they just look like meaningless yellow marks, as if the council’s road workers had gone off on one. However, when viewed from a particular point the marks converge into a massive series of concentric circles that engulf the barrage.

Artistic Poems

Drift of Curlews

Poetic interpretations can be found in the more playful and functional works of Gwen Heeney using Dylan Thomas’s poem “Ballard of the long legged bait” they take the form of benches scattered around Britannia Park and beside Roath Basin. “Cargoes” by Brian Fell is a series of 22 plaques on the walls of the Mermaid Quay that take inspiration from John Masefield’s work on Cardiff Docks.

Trawler Weather Vane

The whole bay area is awash with sculptures both great and small, from the large, mirrored pillar in front of the Millennium Arts Centre to the delicate Willow’s clock tower at Mermaid Quay or the decorative weather vane on top of Woods Brasserie. As you take a leisurely stroll around the rejuvenated bay, keep your eyes open and discover the wonderful, outdoor art gallery that covers all corners of Cardiff Bay’s environs and it will take you on an adventure of your very own.

Sculpture Around Mermaid Quay


Follow the link to an interactive map of Cardiff Bay, with details of the sculptures location, artist, date and a description.

If you would like to find out more about exciting day trips and tours around Cardiff or the Welsh countryside or the many other memorable festivals, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

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