Buying Sculpture: 6 Things You Must Know

You have found the perfect work of art for your home or organization...how do you go about procuring the sculpture? There is more than simply exchanging money to buying artwork, but don't worry. We've created this guide to take you from point A to point B, so that you can enjoy your new sculpture.

#1: Buying or bidding?

Before you buy any sculpture, large or small, you need to decide how you will buy. You can buy it outright, either from a gallery, an artist, or an art dealership website, or you can buy it at auction from either an auction house or website.

There are benefits to each method of purchasing sculpture. When you buy it outright, you can be certain of owning the piece. You will not have to worry that you are in a bidding war for a work of art that really speaks to you. 

In contrast, an auction offers the possibility to pay less than you might have if you bought the sculpture out right. Some consumers enjoy the activity of an auction, the thrill of not knowing whether or not they will ultimately own the piece. 

In the end, whether you buy or bid comes down to personal preference, finances, and how much you are drawn to a particular piece of artwork.

#2: Measure Twice, Buy Once

If you are sewing a jacket, even with a pattern, you measure twice and cut once to avoid wasting fabric, and ultimately money. When you buy a sculpture, returning it because it is, as it turns out, too large for the intended space, is not typically considered a valid reason to return the piece.

That is why you need to measure twice and buy (or bid) once. Unlike a painting, sculptures are three dimensional so make certain that you are accounting for length, width, and height. 

One suggestion is to use a cardboard box (or several stacked or adhered together) that matches the dimensions of your intended acquisition to see, after you measure, how an object of the sculpture's size will fit into the given space. Just as you might tape paint samples to a wall before buying gallons of paint, so too should you take a day or two to see how the space flows with something fitting the sculpture's dimensions. 

Of course, your new sculpture will look much better than a stack of cardboard boxes.

#3: Style for Style

Does your home or corporate space have a certain style? If so, you will want to find a work of art that matches that style. If you have a home filled with modern furniture, abstract sculpture would fit well with the style of your home. 

Style is not only about types of furniture, though. The colors you use play a part in creating style, too. For example, you do not often see a beach home filled with dark colors. The sculpture you buy should complement the color style, or scheme, of its intended space.

The feel of a place matters, too. If your company or organization services high-end clients, for example, you want the sculpture you select to mirror that element. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want to promote a fun, casual atmosphere in your organization, a kinetic sculpture featuring bright colors might best suit your needs. It's rare that a buyer will want to create dissonance with a work of art.

#4: Shipping Your New Piece

Before you buy, understand the shipping terms, conditions, and potential costs. Will you have to pay for shipping? What about insurance? How will the sculpture be transported? What about assembly?

If you really want a particular work of art, these details will not get in the way. However, understanding what an artist, gallery, or dealer/auction website expect of you as the buyer, and what you can expect in turn, creates a smoother transition of ownership from the artist to you or your organization.

Do not be afraid to ask questions ahead of, or during, the buying process. There is no such thing as a "stupid" question and any artist, dealer, or gallery worth your time and money will happily provide information whether you are new to collecting art or a seasoned veteran.

#5: Certificate of Authenticity

A Certificate of Authenticity assures that should you choose to treat a particular sculpture as an investment, either for your own resale or as an inheritance, the sculpture will be attributed to the sculptor who conceived and created the work.

Whether you plan on spending a few hundred, a few thousand, or even a few million dollars on a sculpture, you should make sure you obtain a Certificate of Authenticity. Without that, you risk devaluing your investment from a monetary standpoint.

Additionally, should you wish to insure the piece (and you should add it as an itemized insured object), the Certificate of Authenticity will protect your investment in the event of a loss.

#6: Sculpture Maintenance and Repair

Some sculptures may require upkeep. Find out from the artist or dealer what kind of maintenance is required. Below are some questions you might want to ask:

  • Are there special products I should use to clean my new sculpture?
  • Are there weather conditions that might harm the sculpture and if so, how do I protect it from the elements?
  • If there are moving parts to a sculpture, do they need to be oiled or otherwise maintained?
  • Is it possible to purchase repairs if I should accidentally damage or otherwise break the sculpture?
  • If the sculpture is kinetic or interactive, does it have a weight limit it can support?

Now that you are equipped to successfully buy sculpture for your home or organization, the question is where do you buy? In addition to buying directly from a gallery or artist, we have mentioned some online sites. A great place to start is Saatchi, where you can find artwork to complement any space.