GUIDEBOOK TO BUYING A SCULPTURE

What if I bought a sculpture?

It is quite natural for art collectors and even ordinary art lovers to buy paintings and prints, but for some reason the practice of acquiring sculptures for a home is less common. Even though Finnish sculpture art has changed radically since the 1980s, it has, in comparison to other art forms, been imprisoned by stagnant stereopes way too long. People still seem to relate to sculptures a little too solemnly somehow. Sculptures are perceived as expensive, which is not necessarily true.

Sculpture materials

The range of sculpture materials, besides the traditional bronze, stone, concrete and wood, is today extremely wide, and it will only broaden along with new technical developments. Sculptors have also been increasingly interested in old materials. Many sculptors use found or readymade materials: one may use leather, another may use pieces of string found in the street, some may use mass-produced products from dime stores or metal or plastic artifacts they have ordered directly from the factory. One may collect their materials only from flea markets. Another may use different natural materials – I have even seen sculptures made of pussy willows.

How to approach a sculptor? 

Potential customers unfamiliar with the practices of the art world may feel unsure about how to explore what is on offer. One good advice is to take your time and venture out spying. There are plenty of opportunities for that these days, for example, Galleria Sculptor of the Association of Finnish Sculptors in Helsinki is the only gallery in Finland primarily centered on sculpture art and it maintains a permanent sales collection with regularly changing works. The staff at Sculptor and the Association of Finnish Sculptors will help you get in touch with the artists. The association annually organizes a sales event at Kaapelitehdas (Cable Factory) in Helsinki, where it is easy to sound out what is new in the world of Finnish sculpture. On the association’s website (www.sculptors.fi) there is a list of all the members of the association, as well as links to the artist’s homepages when available.

What costs in a sculpture? 

Sculpture is often regarded as an expensive art form, but as the material range has expanded also the price range has broadened. This is evident in, for example, the sales collection of Galleria Sculptor. You can get a small sculpture for less than 1000 euros, while there are some that cost well over 10 000 euros – but the same goes for oil paintings, as an example. In the price formation of sculptures material costs are ofteen a decisive factor. Transportation also adds to the material costs. One should also note that the requirements of a sculptor’s studio are quite different from those of, say, a painter.

One factor that affects the price is the sculptor’s career development. It is a plain fact that some artist are more famous and success than others. The prices of the works rise along with success and fame.

If you don’t have all that much or enough money, Galleria Sculptor also sells sculptures on deferred terms, but then you should take care that you stick to the payment plan, if you want to maintain an honorable presence in our art world. The price of a sculpture is also affected by its uniqueness. Sculptors who use bronze often take several casts of their works and number them when they sign them. Staying at a lower VAT rate (10%) allows for the production of eight casts, maximally.

Sculpture as home decoration

A sculpture or a relief is an expressive and brilliant home decoration element. Even a small sculpture, when effectively placed, can be an element that strongly builds up the spirit of a place. A sculpture also easily adjusts to changes at a home or even to moving to a new home. A sculpture is easy to move around along with the changes. One should however give careful consideration to the placement or possible stand of the sculpture. The best way to find a suitable location and way of displaying the sculpture is to discuss it with the sculptor her/ himself – sculptors are usually willing to take part and assist in the placement.

Lifecycle, care and maintenance of a sculpture 

Many sculptures are indeed durable, but most of them require regular care. Sculptures can also get damaged or dirty. When purchasing a sculpture one should always discuss its future maintenance needs with the artist. Information on skilled repairers or cleaners can usually be easily found through the Association of Finnish Sculptors – our community of professional sculptors is relatively small and word of mouth works effectively.

With some materials – for example, natural materials – the durability properties may still be unknown to the contemporary sculptor her/himself. New materials often involve experimentations that don’t necessarily have traditions or know-how behind them to rely on. It would be good to discuss these questions with the artist her/himself. One should also be prepared for the possibility that a sculpture may not become an heirloom. But it doesn’t mean that life with a temporary work of art can’t be spiritually rich – as long as one is aware of its perishable nature.

Commissioned works

In the past sculptors used to strictly draw a line between commissioned works and so-called free sculptures. Today these terms are hardly ever used, but the difference still exists. Many sculptors have a very practical approach to their work, carrying on the craftsman tradition.

A sculpture can, for example be an alternative to a skillfully painted portrait. A sculpture portrait does not necessarily have to be any more expensive than a painting commissioned from an esteemed portrait painter. Many sculptors also do grave sculptures, even though these have been somewhat ignored in art history. You can also place a sculpture in your own yard. In these cases one needs to of course pay special attention to how the sculptures are affixed in place, so that they won’t be too easy to steal.

Text: Otso Kantokorpi