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Contemporary Sculpture Tour

Every Friday and Sunday from 22 May to 27 Oct (subject to availability)

Tours run at 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm.

Adult £10.00, Child £5.00 Adult grounds admission applies
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Waddesdon has an important collection of contemporary art including Joana Vasconcelos’ extraordinary Wedding Cake, and work by other well-known artists. You can explore these on a special tour through the Water Garden.

Wedding Cake, a 12-metre-tall ceramic sculptural pavilion in the form of a three-tiered cake, is a major Rothschild Foundation commission by celebrated Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos (b.1971). Set in a grove of trees beside the 19th-century ornamental Dairy, it’s a playful continuation of the history of placing fanciful buildings in gardens and landscapes, which at Waddesdon include the Dairy and gilded Rococo-style Aviary at the Manor.

The Water Garden itself is worth a visit, with its romantic artificial rockwork and lush seasonal planting set around pools and water features. It’s home to a growing collection of contemporary sculpture including works by Angus Fairhurst, Elisabeth Frink, George Cutts and CoExistence Project, plus Lafite, Vasconcelos’ magnificent pair of giant candlesticks made out of wine bottles.

The 60 minute tour is a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy. Access only to the first the first floor.

Part sculpture, part architectural garden folly, the Wedding Cake is a celebration of love, festivity and joy. Inspired by the exuberant Baroque buildings and decorative ceramic traditions of Lisbon, where Vasconcelos lives and works. Thousands of gleaming, icing-like ceramic tiles glazed in pale pinks, greens and blues cover the cake, all made in a traditional Portuguese manufactory. The surfaces are further adorned with sculptural ornaments, in some cases spouting water.

Wedding Cake is Vasconcelos’ most ambitious commission to date and a perfect complement to Waddesdon. It showcases all the defining characteristics of her practice, which often playful, manipulating scale to dramatic effect and using familiar daily objects in surprising, charming and inventive ways. Her work explores domesticity and femininity, as well as celebrating the artistic traditions and history of Portugal.

The vision and imagination exemplified in the piece mirror the passion which drove Baron Ferdinand, the creator of Waddesdon, to build the Manor and the Dairy, where he intended that his many friends would be surprised and delighted at every turn. The ceramic decorations connect to the Manor’s world-renowned collections of Sèvres and Meissen porcelain. And the sumptuous decoration of the Wedding Cake reflects the architecture of the house, itself covered in intricate ornaments.

“I want people to have three different approaches to it: looking from the outside, enjoying the surroundings from the different levels or balconies and rising to the top, finally completing the artwork with their presence. Above all, I always thought of it as a temple to love.” – Joana Vasconcelos

Beside the Dairy you will find more work by Vasoncelos which also subvert ideas of form and scale. Lafite, two giant candlesticks made of illuminated Chateau Lafite Rothschild magnums, was commissioned in 2015 by the Rothschild Foundation.  They celebrate the family associations with the world of great Bordeaux wine. A final piece,  Pavillon du Thé, a giant wrought-iron tea pot, can be seen in front of the Manor.

Vasconcelos’ Lafite, two giant candlesticks made of illuminated Chateau Lafite Rothschild magnums, commissioned in 2015 by the Rothschild Foundation stand in the Water Garden at the Dairy and celebrate the family associations to the world of great Bordeaux wine.  In 2012, her Pavilon de Thé, a giant wrought-iron tea pot, was the focal point of House of Cards, a contemporary sculpture exhibition in the gardens, and in 2016  her Cup Cake (2011) was exhibited on the North Front.

Along with the Wedding Cake, these pieces showcase the defining characteristics of Vasconcelos’ practice. Her work is often playful, manipulating scale to dramatic effect and using familiar daily objects in surprising, charming and inventive ways. Access only to the first the first floor.

Find out more about Joana Vasconcelos >

The Water Garden

Abandoned after the Second World War, the Water Garden was rediscovered in 1989, nearly 100 years after it was created. It was originally part of the tour taken by Baron Ferdinand’s guests  to the Dairy and glasshouses. A series of small lakes are interconnected by Pulham rockwork, waterfalls, cascades and paths and a rich variety of planting.

Sculpture in the Water Garden

Discover our striking collection of sculpture by well-known contemporary artists. Angus Fairhurst’s ‘A couple of differences between thinking and feeling’, – questions perceptions of it is to be human. Elisabeth Frink’s ‘Mirage I’ and II evoke giant wading birds, inspired the salt marshes and birdlife in the South of France.

George Cutts’ kinetic sculpture ‘Sea Change’ is made of two slender, curling stainless steel poles that turn slowly in opposite directions. It recalls the ebb and flow of seaweed in ocean currents.

CoExistence Projects ‘Elephant Family’ was acquired in 2021 as part of a project highlighting the threat to Asian elephant habitats from human encroachment and loss of biodiversity in the densely populated Indian subcontinent.

Please note that the Water Garden has uneven surfaces in places. Please contact enquiries@waddesdon.org.uk with any accessibility questions.