top image // Kloudy with his older brothers—two Green Dog sculptures by Zhou Chunya.
This is my new son, Kloudy, with his elder brothers—two Green Dog sculptures by Zhou Chunya. Kloudy is an 11-week-old Great Dane. He weighed 41 lbs. when this photo was taken last week and already towers over one of them. By this time next year, he’ll be closing in on 175 lbs. and will be bigger than both of them.
How can an adorably clumsy, Clifford-sized dog coexist with a sculpture that’s down on the floor with him? You just have to get creative. You might never be as obsessed as I am with the three-dimensional, but here are some of my tricks for bringing the supersized emotional impact of sculpture into your life.
In a wonderful article in Hyperallergic, Sarah E. Bond summed up the source of my obsession as “an inherent sensuality” in the ability to “visually consume a sculpture from every angle.” That inherent sensuality is what’s so yummy about sculpture in the round (the kind you can appreciate from every side). Its physicality is more likely to produce a visceral response. Think about how you feel when you stand in the shadow of a monumental sculpture at a museum. It engulfs you. Like the Urs Fischer Rain I wrote about in my last column, it takes your breath away. More of that for me, please!
If you’re still not convinced, here’s a newsflash: sculpture is usually a bargain. If you love an artist who makes both 2D and 3D works, chances are that you can collect their sculpture at a much more reasonable price than their other works. My gorgeous Green Dog sculptures by Zhou Chunya cost a fraction of his Green Dog paintings, so does most sculpture. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true.
Bill, by Mark Harris, braving a nor’easter.
Here’s why. Sculpture takes up valuable living space, and it can be really heavy—which adds up to inconvenience and expense. Bill is a 1,000-pound Carrera marble sculpture of a bison who now lives on my terrace. I’m not gonna lie, Bill is a bitch to move. Once he’s put in place by the art handlers, he’s there for good. There’s no nudging him into another position. Worse, we once had to keep him in storage for two years because the beams in our floor weren’t strong enough to keep him from crashing through it into our downstairs neighbor’s living room. So, yes, sculpture can be difficult, but you can’t hang a painting outside. Sculpture is the only art durable enough to withstand the elements over the long term. Long after the cold has killed off all my plants, Bill still makes our view incredibly special.
Materialist Man by Wang Guangyi with Bait by Wei Dong and an AK-47 by Zhang Dali.
As does the oversized resin sculpture Materialist Man by Wang Guangyi who greets everyone in our foyer. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the paintings. The Wei Dong is my current favorite, but imagine the two paintings without the sculpture. While they’d still be lovely, the conversation between them would be a lot less interesting. The visual presence of Materialist Man has a dynamism that intensifies all three works. All of them are by Contemporary Chinese artists. The vulnerability of the portrait contrasts with the strength and determination of the sculpture, which leads you to the abundance of the allegoric oil. And, bonus, I can move this sculpture by myself. He might look like he weighs a ton, but he’s made of hollow resin that’s light as a feather.
A Day of the Dead sculpture by Ricardo Linares shares our dining room with Zhang Dali’s Chinese Offspring.
Most people are unwilling to give up their valuable space for sculpture. I get that. I’ve lived my entire adult life in apartments. Large sculpture is a lot like a Great Dane: it’s a huge commitment, but the emotional payback is equally enormous. More importantly, you don’t necessarily have to give up floor space. You can seat them at your table or hang them on the ceiling. We rarely have more than a couple of people over for dinner. So a life-sized Day of the Dead sculpture that I’ve nicknamed Corpsey sits at our dining room table. On the rare occasion when his seat is needed, he obligingly moves into the living room.
There’s sculpture in every room in my house. Smaller works perch on windowsills, shelves, tabletops, and dressers. Occasionally I go traditional, like the cheerful bronze sun we wake up to every morning. It’s not an important work, but I love it nonetheless. Instead of a white plinth, like you’d see in a gallery, we put it on an agate-like wood and resin block by Andrianna Shamaris. In our living room, sculptural Mexican folk art masks by Juan Orta hang on walls above the Green Dogs and a fantastical folk-art dragon slithers up the ceiling with a warning hiss down at the others. The real art of collecting is to create a good conversation between diverse works.
I’m also fond of perching sculptures in unusual places—like on the floor next to a French door or in the bathroom. Most art can’t take humidity, but ceramics, glass, and resin are perfect for it. Liu Bolin’s Red Hand 10 has mainly lived in a succession of our bathrooms. Right now, I’m chancing having him in conversation with a traditional Himalayan painting of the Tara—a work on paper that’s not nearly as suited to the environment as he is.
Think of that the next time you’re considering buying a print, and go for some sculpture instead. More importantly, factor in sculpture’s ability to deliver a higher emotional impact than any other kind of work and treat yourself to some inherent sensuality of your own.
Holly Hager is an art collector and the founder of Curatious. Previously an author and a professor, she now dedicates herself full-time to help artists make a living from their art by making the joys of art more accessible to everyone.