See them firsthand (sorry).
Hands have historically fascinated artists and sculptors, despite being notoriously tricky to draw and even more finicky to render realistically in 3D.
Regardless, some artists have made a name for themselves through their depictions of hands: Lorenzo Quinn is the brains behind the Venice Biennale hands which rose from the canals to make a political statement on climate change. Meanwhile, Mario Irrarázabal is known for his trademark hands which, rather than rising out of the water, seem to be sprouting from the very earth itself.
If you’re keen to see more oversized hands in sculpture around the world—of the permanent rather than pop-up variety—here’s where to head.
Hand With Watch
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
Sculpted by Joaquim Schmettau in 1975, this well-known Berlin sculpture—officially titled “Hand with Watch,” but known to locals as, simply, “The Hand”—briefly appeared in the Depeche Mode video for “Everything Counts.” Post-pop culture fame, the sculpture fell into disrepair though, eventually being removed for a period in 2008; however, it was put back in 2012 after protests.
Fun Fact: The original watch stopped ticking after a few years, but when it was restored in 2012, a new watch was added which continues to chart the passage of time today.
WHERE: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Enormous artworks are typically far from inconspicuous, and that goes double for Tulsa’s “Praying Hands” sculpture. This bronze behemoth clocks in at 60 feet tall and weighs around 30 tons, while its explicitly religious overtone is also remarkably on-brand. Why? Well, it resides outside the controversial and uber-religious Oral Roberts University.
INSIDER TIPLook out for the “Praying Hands” when you’re flying into Tulsa, as they can apparently be seen from the air.
WHERE: Xilitla, Mexico
One of Mexico’s most surreal tourist attractions is buried deep within the San Luis Potosí jungle, just outside of the town of Xilitla. An oversized sculpture park, full of stark, concrete sculptures, Las Pozas was the brainchild of a British eccentric. While this spot is very much worth a visit in and of itself, hand fans, in particular, should look out for a few hidden five-fingered sculptures as they explore the park.
Hands of Harmony
WHERE: Pohang, South Korea
South Korea’s “Hands of Harmony” are a pair of hands situated on the Homigot Beach at the so-called “tail of the tiger” end of the South Korean peninsula. While one appears to be rising from the ocean, the other sits opposite on the walkway. Originally built and unveiled in 1999, the bronze hands mark the spot where the sun is first said to rise over the peninsula and the fingers are perfectly aligned with the break of day.
WHERE: Danang, Vietnam
The most publicized (and oversized) hand sculpture introduced in recent months can be found in Danang, Vietnam. The so-called Golden Bridge is propped up not by poles and posts, but by two giant “stone” hands. However, the feeling of precariousness which this ethereal-looking structure might provoke is actually unfounded. In actuality, the Golden Bridge’s hands are remarkably robust, made not from stone but from fiberglass and steel mesh.
Holocaust Memorial, Miami
WHERE: Miami, Florida
Designed by architect Kenneth Triester, Miami Beach’s Holocaust Memorial pays tribute to those who died at the hands of the Nazis. A solitary hand, apparent in its singular, four-story-tall loneliness, grasps toward the heavens. Meanwhile, men, women, and children scurry up the wrist, clambering over one another as they head in the same direction, almost—but not quite—obscuring the numbers etched into the forearm.
La Mano de Punta del Este
WHERE: Punta del Este, Uruguay
Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal is well-known for his enormous hand sculptures. In fact, one of them has become a major landmark in Uruguay. Known in English as “The Hand,” the plastic, steel and concrete construction of “La Mano de Punta de Este” appears to have erupted from the sand itself. Rather appropriately, only the tips of its five fingers are visible.
INSIDER TIPIf you can’t make it to Uruguay to see this sculpture, there’s an exact replica of it in Madrid, Spain. If you also can’t make it to Spain, you can look at this photo.
Mano del Desierto
WHERE: Antofagasta, Chile
Developed a decade after Irarrázabal’s first hand sculpture in Uruguay, Chile’s very own “Mano del Desierto” is every inch as impressive as that of its Uruguayan counterpart. And its location in the heart of the arid Atacama Desert—some 75 kilometers from Antofagasta—only furthers the supposed message of the monument itself: Man is vulnerable. While it’s now more than two decades old, it remains as popular as ever amongst the travelers who make the journey to view it.
Helping Hands Memorial
WHERE: Three Mills, London
There’s no shortage of great art and architecture in London, but the “Helping Hands Memorial” in Three Mills is perhaps one of the most moving and understated examples. Created by Alec Peever, the sculpture memorializes four men who died there in 1901. After the first man was overcome, the subsequent three died trying to save him. These actions are now immortalized by the sculpture which depicts two hands, desperately clasped together.
WHERE: Kent, England
Ramsgate, Kent—home to the UK’s largest branch of Wetherspoons—may not have a hip reputation, but the overall East Kent area is well-known for being the site of much medicinal innovation. In homage to that history, an eight-foot-tall David Barnes sculpture was commissioned in 2000 depicting a pair of hands lovingly cupping a molecule.
Piece of Hand
WHERE: Bandung, Indonesia
Developed by Indonesian sculptor Nyoman Nuarta, Bandung’s “Piece of Hand” is striking in its simplicity. The giant hand, fingers taut and outstretched, appears to fade away at the wrist while the nude figure of a woman takes center stage on the palm. While very little information about this sculpture is available online, it’s said to be located in an upper-class community in Bandung, Indonesia.
INSIDER TIPFinding this one might be half the fun, but if you’re not in the searching mood then head to the more easily-accessible NuArt Sculpture Park instead.