Beyond the Frame: How to Add Contemporary Sculpture to Your Art Collection

Alessandro Levato | July 24, 2023

Kiana Honarmond's work, On Edge, CNC Machined MDF Panels, Steel, Light and Shadow. Installation shot from Behind the Black, Brown and Gold, at Washington and Jefferson College, 2017. 


Have you ever looked at the negative space in a sculpture or experienced walking under a Louise Bourgeois Spider?

In the context of contemporary art, sculpture continually evolves and transforms. It behaves as an amorphous entity, shaped by the artist but brought to life by those who engage with it.

Collecting contemporary sculptures involves considering many more factors compared to collecting two-dimensional images. Sculptures not only require more physical space but also demand careful integration into their surroundings, beyond just considering wall colors.

Below we have outlined the best steps to take for those starting or continuing their relationship with collecting contemporary sculpture. 


First, how can we define contemporary sculpture in relation to contemporary art?

Contemporary art encompasses any artwork created past 1945 (though some art historians argue it began in the 60s with pop art) through the present day. So, what does this mean in relation to sculpture?

The Getty clearly states, "Today's artists work in and respond to a global environment that is culturally diverse, technologically advancing, and multifaceted.” Consequently, contemporary artwork and artists know no bounds in their responses, dialogues, and resulting creations.

Sculpture, relating to the medium, has developed along with the contemporary art world. Sculpture today is referring more to an object than a technical medium. 

Contemporary sculpture can involve a range of factors that make it so encompassing within the art world today. In order to jump feet first into collecting contemporary sculpture, it is best to understand its boundlessness. 


How has contemporary sculpture developed over time?

Contemporary sculpture has undergone significant development since Post-World War ll, with Western art history often linking its evolution to the influences of minimalism and conceptual art periods. While there is some truth to this association, the essence of expansive freedom in creating such objects has always been present, albeit now recontextualized.

During the 1960-70s, contemporary sculpture broke free from being tied to specific mediums, granting artists the liberty to explore and occupy space beyond traditional constraints. This newfound freedom allowed sculptures to interact with architecture, coexist within and outside of built environments, and seamlessly integrate into various settings.

For collectors interested in acquiring contemporary sculptures, it is essential to recognize their unique characteristics that intertwine with architecture, interior design, and the concept of objectness. This multifaceted approach to sculpture opens up possibilities for engaging artworks that interact dynamically with their surroundings. Examples of such contemporary sculptures could include installation art that creates immersive experiences, outdoor art, and interactive sculpture that encourages audience participation.


Now, let’s take a look at how material impacts the definitions of contemporary sculpture.

In traditional sculpture, materials like clay, bronze, wood, and stone were commonly used. However, contemporary sculpture pushed the boundaries of materiality beyond traditional mediums, redefining what constitutes a sculpture.

Contemporary sculpture evolved to question the ideas of objectness. These more conceptual means of creating artwork developed from both minimalism and the readymade

Before talking about collecting contemporary sculpture, it's crucial to understand the significant impact these three-dimensional objects have on the space they inhabit—your space.

Collecting traditional two-dimensional art, such as paintings or prints, is relatively straightforward since they can be hung on walls. In contrast, sculptures demand spatial awareness within their environment. They may require special construction, protective design considerations to avoid accidents, and higher insurance coverage.

Sculptures are intended to be viewed and experienced in three dimensions, considering the human perspective, unlike flat artworks. They have evolved to interact equally with both the viewer and the surrounding environment simultaneously, creating a unique experience.

Therefore, while collecting sculpture might appear similar to collecting paintings or prints, acquiring contemporary sculptures involves different considerations due to their dynamic relationship with viewers and surroundings.


What should you consider when placing contemporary sculptures within your collection?

Placing a contemporary piece within your home or collection starts an immediate dialogue with the rest of the artwork and with the spatial environment. For example, "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, can fall into the category of sculpture, and because it was created in 1991 it would also fall into the category of contemporary. 

This work’s medium is as follows, “Candies in variously colored wrappers, endless supply, overall dimensions vary with the installation”. Collecting a piece such as this means that you are also collecting an endless supply of candy. Pieces will move, fall, be eaten, and will take up a bit of space. 

Needless to say, if you should collect contemporary sculpture, you are influencing the longevity of the concept and everlasting development of physical and spatial realities. 


Blue Altar by Artist, Jorge Vergeli


How can you tell if a contemporary sculpture speaks to you?

Now that we have briefly covered the impact of size, display, upkeep, and durability, let’s take a closer look at where to start. 

Like collecting any type of art—when you know, you know. If you feel conflicted even looking at a sculpture, think about what questions it is asking you—the viewer.  Artworks that keep you up at night could be just the right match. 

Take time to look at the sculpture objectively. Ask yourself questions such as what shape, material/s, and size is this sculpture. Or, what dialogue is being created between myself and the artwork?

Whether it’s for investment, interest, or somewhere in between, contemporary sculpture has a huge grasp over the art world today. Here are ways to get you up to speed: 

  1. First, get familiar with contemporary artists working today. Remember that many artists use a wide range of mediums to express their artistic vision, so a painter could have some sculptural pieces alongside their paintings. 

  2. Look out for the artist's early works! Even if these aren’t necessarily in the current public eye, it shows how the artists work has developed over time. Collecting smaller pieces and building up to those major career achievements will allow your collection to show a larger picture. 

  3. Keep in mind the artwork's provenance and other historical documentation, since a lot of contemporary sculptures deal with deconstruction over time—take Richard Serra’s rusting obstacles. 

  4. Keep in mind additional factors that come into play when dealing with these types of artwork. Don’t forget that while you are collecting spatial pieces, transportation and storage of the sculptures are essential to their longevity. 

  5. Stay informed about the changing landscape of contemporary art, but don't feel compelled to follow every trend. While visiting galleries and museums can provide valuable exposure, focus on building your collection's own unique identity This will make it more meaningful to you as a collector.

  6. Establish relationships with established artists while also nurturing emerging talents. This balanced approach will enrich your collection and contribute to the growth of the art community.

  7. Protect your collection with documentation. To keep track of your collection efficiently, consider using a platform like Artwork Archive to manage and organize all the relevant data about your artworks. This centralized system will simplify the process of tracking and documenting your collection over time.


How can Artwork Archive help protect your art collection?

Artwork Archive provides space for you to keep your collection organized with any type of artwork you are looking to manage. With sculpture-oriented data input such as weight, dimensions, and tag words, we provide everything you need for acquiring contemporary sculpture. 

Need to document three-dimensional objects to record pertinent information? Users can upload up to ten high-resolution images that you can view any time, even on the go!

We understand how much paperwork is involved with this type of artwork, which is why we have included space for you to attach Additional Documents to your pieces. This can range anywhere from conservation documents, contractual agreements, and even receipts of supplying everlasting candy. It will stay with your artwork, wherever it moves. 

Find out more about collecting different types of sculpture in this Guide to Art: How to Collect Sculpture.


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