Over the years we have been involved with the art business, sculpture has been possibly the least understood or approachable medium. We have recently sat down to consider why this might be!
Firstly the most obvious answer is the cost, making it unobtainable for many. Most art buyers will rarely consider the purchase or commissioning of a sculpture because they fear it's initial investment is beyond their means. Hopefully we can shatter this myth a little. Yes there is a lot of very expensive sculpture in the market but mostly this fits into the 'supercar' bracket. The majority is affordable, brilliantly made and potentially a sound investment in what is a whacky market.
Secondly, many just don't understand how to show it and that starts right from the galleries selling the work through to the potential buyers. Since we opened the doors over three year ago we have shown and sold a large array of sculpture from a few hundred pounds to multiple thousands. As a gallery we have always put more emphasis on showing sculpture and ceramics than paintings. With the huge volume of abstract paintings on the market that have little or no virtue, buying paintings is becoming a bigger risk than any other segment. Even the fragility of ceramics is beginning to be ignored over an attempt to show the Emperor in New Clothes style of painting.
That will always be some buyers ideal purchase but we ask you to consider the level of work, thought and inspiration that it took to make a modern abstract over a piece of 3d work. The rise of the modern abstract is closely connected to our throw-away lifestyle. They have little to no depth (in my opinion) and whilst they may bring colour to a room they offer little more. With 3d work, you get so much more; emotion, memory, tactility and warmth. Yes there is a heap of abstract sculpture too.
At Bils & Rye we always tend towards an abstract work that has clear roots to the subject being abstracted. It always amazes the audience when given that explanation as it would appear many believe abstract art to be a movement rather than the development of an idea, scene or object. Maybe I misunderstand abstract?
Another factor with sculpture that may deter potential buyers is the editions a sculptor may produce. Aim for a low number where possible and check with the artist or gallery whether each edition is identical. We currently have a number of Tom Hiscocks' work in the gallery and whilst the run number is 10, no two are actually identical with minor differences in the fabrication of each piece.
With bronze work, the buyer can often specify a patination finish at no extra cost. It is not always possible but worth asking the question.
Our advice to clients considering purchasing sculpture, either off the shelf or the way more daunting commissioning is first to consider where it will be displayed. How much interaction it is likely to gain and what sort of lighting it gets. With Michael Thacker's work, buyers need to consider the natural light and whether it will also interfere with a favourite view. Because of these considerations we frequently do home trials and always offer a 28 day free return period for all purchases. Sculpture may well turn out to be the third biggest purchase of your life behind a house and a car but it will continue to bring you joy way beyond it's initial purchase and has every chance of keeping ahead of inflation as an investment if chosen wisely!
One of our clients recently wrote to us detailing how before they had visited the gallery they had never before considered purchasing sculpture. They have now built an enviable collection that they best sum up in their own words:
"...our lives and home are enriched beyond our wildest dreams!! Through you, we are discovering a deepening and widening love and appreciation of art in diverse forms and have created a home of beauty and joy. Perhaps the greatest compliment so far is from G’s son P and his wife in Washington DC who have asked us to help them choose their first purchase of a work of art whilst we’re visiting in a week’s time because ‘we love what you’ve chosen for your home'."
Our abbreviated buying advice is to be sure, ask for a trial period and foremost select something that either speaks to you or instigates a change in emotion. There are no wrongs when buying art, we all have our preferred medium, style and composition so go with the gut feeling, in our experience it is rarely wrong! Most of all, enjoy the process, don't be daunted by the pretend superiority you may encounter. Realistically, your knowledge or that of the seller has no impact. Emotion should override that!