Once, sculpture was something for stately homes and museums, but now it has definitely become more mainstream and a very popular art form.

Abstract and surreal artists created works of art not only as paintings, but also as three-dimensional art forms, or installations. They weren’t about classical nudes or historical figures, but everyday objects or materials, and this is what helped bring sculpture to the masses.

If you enjoy sculpture and you’re now thinking about owning a piece, but not sure where to start, you’re not alone as it is becoming a very popular art form. Here are our tips on buying sculpture online.

A brief history of sculpture

Sculpture dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt, potentially even before. We’ve all sat through history lessons and seen sculptures of figures standing in a set pose, or military statues where the hero strides and looks to the future, but this medium has evolved a lot since then.

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Euterpe - Muse of Music - (Framed Ceramic Panel) Euterpe - Muse of Music - (Framed Ceramic Panel) by Dick Martin
Pair of Noble Figures (Terracotta Burnished & Smoked) Pair of Noble Figures (Terracotta Burnished & Smoked) by Dick Martin

Throughout history, sculpture was a great way for the rich, famous or heroic to preserve their name in history. Whether that was the sitter in a formal pose or represented as a Greek or Roman myth. This is why a lot of this art form represents people in a lifelike pose, part of a story or staring out as a formal head and shoulders bust.

Auguste Rodin is seen as a key figure to break sculpture out of referencing history and the Greek myths to become art in its own right. He believed in creating figures in more natural poses that were more about the human form and emotion than history. His iconic piece The Kiss changed the face of sculpture and art.

Following Rodin, there was Constantin Brancusi who turned sculpture into an abstract art form, as well as Alberto Giacometti, whose iconic figures helped change perceptions of sculpture.

It was these artists who helped transform sculpture to be whatever the artist wanted it to be. It was no longer about a historical reference or pose, but about expression and emotion.

What style to choose?

The great news about sculpture – with thanks to Rodin - is that there are no hard and fast rules as there would be in painting. This is because the artist is working 3-dimensionally, which gives them so much more scope for their imagination to run free.

Of course, we still see ‘traditional’ figurative forms, but now we also have abstract and conceptual sculpture.

Abstract sculpture is mainly made up of shapes and distorted forms and tends to work well with modern or minimalist interiors. Like painters, sculptors also look to capture movement or flow in their works, and abstraction is a great way to capture this in 3-D form.

Conceptual sculpture is that notorious form of art that usually leads to viewers in art galleries saying: ‘I could do that’. Yep, it’s that pile of bricks or chair in the middle of a room that leaves people baffled as to why it is art.

This form of sculpture is challenging, can be quite hard to read, can come across as pretentious and does require an understanding of Art History. However, it is this challenge that makes conceptual art so much more rewarding. It makes you think and leaves you with more questions than answers. Having a piece in your home will never be boring, that’s for sure!

The other great thing about sculpture is that you don’t have to stick to one particular style. Having a mixture in your home can work well. Like a gallery wall, sometimes opposing forms can really standout when placed together.

Sculptural trends

With space becoming a bit of a premium in towns and cities, more people are looking to their gardens to make a statement, which is why abstract pieces for outside spaces are growing in popularity.

Gardens are increasingly becoming an extension of the inside space, and the great thing about sculpture, unlike a painting, is that it can live just as well in the great outdoors.

When choosing sculpture for the garden, it’s really important however to double-check what material it has been made with as it may not be ideal for outdoor purposes. Most garden sculpture is made with durable, or recycled metals or marble to ensure it can withstand the elements. Wood is also a good material as it is natural and designed to be outside.

When it comes to materials, we are seeing the more traditional Bronzes and Marbles back on-trend, and iron, recycled and experimental materials are also in demand.

Todd Dunning’s Roto Animated sculpture is made from aerospace composites and moves and rotates of its own accord to be a hypnotic piece of sculpture. It would be ideal for a calming space in a house or covered garden space.

Influenced by ballet and movement, Victor Buckley’s abstract figures are real stand-out pieces that use simplicity to make a statement. He mainly uses metal and wood for his work to enhance the fluidity of movement that he is trying to capture.

On a budget

Large pieces of sculpture do tend to sit at the higher end of the art buying budget, but if you have limited spend, it’s still possible to buy work. At Art Gallery, we believe in affordable art for all, so there is always something for every budget.

Most sculpture is now made for the desk, tabletop, mantelpiece or wall. It’s only really garden sculpture that tends to be larger in size and scale. The days of sculpture only belonging to the super rich or aristocracy are long gone. Instead, this is an affordable art that sits well within any domestic setting.

No matter what size your space, sculpture can transform it. Make a statement and make it a focal point to create a vibrant room designed to impress friends and family alike.