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  #1  
Old 04-03-2015, 11:37 AM
Lastrid Lastrid is offline
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How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

I read an article today about a sculpture in Jamestown, NY of Lucille Ball that is just an absolute travesty. This got me wondering how exactly a sculptor gets the opportunity to do that first monument that will then bring them more commissions. I've seen plenty of monumental sculpture that wasn't especially good, so it's obviously not all on ability. Interested in your thoughts on this.
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  #2  
Old 04-03-2015, 06:55 PM
raspero raspero is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

There are two different customers I can think of for monumental sculpture: governments and commercial buildings.

In government, nothing is purchased based on quality; politics is involved—either large scale (political pull) or small scale (personal relationship). If you are not inherently a politician, I suspect commercial buildings are a better prospect.

Years ago I knew a man who was an art teacher at a university in Michigan. Bethlehem Steel had come out with a product they called Cor-Ten steel. It rusted superficially and then the rusting stopped. Great for bridges. He went to them and sold them on the idea that having Cor-Ten steel used for large outdoor sculptures would be really good for their business. They agreed and supplied him with all the steel he wanted. He quickly became the go to sculptor for the high rise office building developers. Not only because his sculpture didn't require any maintenance but also because he had a fully equipped shop with the machinery needed for the work. He had cranes, fork lifts, a huge computer driven cutting torch table—he could deliver—on time.

Granted everyone uses Cor-Ten now, and Bethlehem Steel, if it still exists, is a poor shadow of it's former self, but the point is, what I saw in him was a solid business ability that gave developers confidence that he could and would deliver. While museum curators and gallery owners are accustomed to, and are willing to deal with, eccentrics, the big real estate developers are not interested—they expect results.

I think most sculptors fail at this because they try to relate to the customers as artists only. I think it is necessary to relate as an artist—because they want to buy art—but as a dependable sub-contractor as well. Sounds tricky. Probably most sculptors aren't cut out for it.

Richard
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  #3  
Old 04-04-2015, 06:26 AM
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tonofelephant tonofelephant is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

Lastrid, Raspero is correct but it is a little more involved.

As a sculptor you need to show a set of work that is popular with steadily increasing value. Specifically, you need to start showing in the Public Art field where they lease their work for 6 months to years at a time to get exposure & to show that you are dependable enough to show up & popular enough to make the grade.

Next start bidding on sculpture jobs that are within a multiple of 3x the largest sculpture budget you have successfully completed - used to be 4 - 5 x. For example if you have sold a sculpture for $10K you can bid on jobs that are up to $30K. After you have sold a $30K sculpture you can go after a $90k sculpture jobs. Was told about the 3x rule by a Public Art Administrator & have found it to be true so far. Anytime I bid for projects above what I have done previously, have never gotten to the semi-finalist phase. Many Public Art venues now require that to do a $50K job you have to have completed 3-4 up to 5 different $25K sculptures to be in the running for the current project.

The other thing to do is get yourself onto the Public Art Rosters. A lot of cities are using rosters of prequalified artists for all of their Public Art needs for projects ranging in price from $10K up to $150K and more.

The thing about public art is it has like 3 components. The first & easiest part is the actual sculpture. Next is satisfying the community needs for the sculpture or presenting a good argument of why your project is a good fit.

This satisfying of the community need partly covers the issuing agencies butt to make sure that "plop art" (irrelevant art that is just plopped somewhere to satisfy a need for public art - a phrase learned from a Florida Public Art person in a fit of candor) is not performed. The third part is actually installing the artwork on-time, on-budget & without embarassing the Public Art Office - another words being easy to work with & organized enough to fill out their reams of paperwork.

Public Art has long stretches of time built into it so if you have little patience find a new venue. Normally the quote is out for 2-3 months to get artists to respond. Then 1 - 6 months for the agency to decide who the finalists are. Then 4-12 months to make the sculpture. Then the installation. All this time you need to have a backlog of steady work to pay the bills meantime. Public Art is at best a side job until it becomes your main job with a commission.

So to answer your question in a short form. It will take several years (at a very fast paced schedule) to get up to a modest sized public commission. Along the way expect to receive a huge amount of "non-acceptance" notices from Public Art Agencies.
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Old 04-04-2015, 06:20 PM
raspero raspero is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

That is an excellent explanation Ton.

Richard
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  #5  
Old 04-06-2015, 07:03 PM
Lastrid Lastrid is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

Very informative, thank you. I'm assuming that by Public Art, you mean temporary installations? I've seen a few calls such as that, but it seemed as though they were asking for already existing sculpture. Perhaps either I was mistaken or haven't come across any such calls.
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Old 04-15-2015, 09:30 AM
negative negative is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

I hate to be cynical. Especially after such a solid, thoughtful response.
The truth is, few people have the sensibility to recognize good work.
The people who hate the crappy Lucy sculpture only hate it because it doesn't look like Lucy. If you milled out a perfect facsimile of the actress in a 3d printer, they would be positively thrilled.
Then comes the politics.
My brother-in-law, the dentist who gave me a price break has a nephew, or "I want the sculptor who went to the same college I did," etc etc.
And if that doesn't totally discourage you, awards generally go to the low ballers. Artists whose spouse has such a good job, they can undercut the competition who have to make a real living.
Then there are the grant givers. You spend 3 weeks stressing to write up a proposal for a $5,000 grant - 1/5 of your actual expenses, but you submit your proposal, to find that 350 other sculptors are doing the same, and you'd have been better off spending your time working at MacDonalds, and putting the earnings in the New York State Lottery.
And finally, the client who does have a decent budget, will lean toward a well established sculptor, or a prestige name.
You should take all this with a grain of salt.
As long as you love what you do, and have a huge barn to store it in, stick with it. And who knows? Someday one of your statues just might be memorialized in a community park somewhere.

Last edited by negative : 04-15-2015 at 10:08 AM.
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  #7  
Old 04-15-2015, 12:53 PM
Art-Deco Art-Deco is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lastrid View Post
I read an article today about a sculpture in Jamestown, NY of Lucille Ball that is just an absolute travesty.
We should be happy to see this then:


Lucille Ball’s upstate New York hometown wants ‘monster’-like statue removed
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, April 4, 2015

Residents of Lucille Ball's upstate New York hometown said they want to replace a scary-looking bronze statue of the actress.

"It looks like a monster," a Celoron man championing the cause told the Daily News. “It not only does not look like Lucy, it doesn’t look human. And at nighttime it’s even scarier."

Celoron officials who “all agreed it was ugly” have been working to fix the statue since it was erected in 2009, the man said.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/nati...icle-1.2173356
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  #8  
Old 04-15-2015, 05:54 PM
Mack Mack is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lastrid View Post
Very informative, thank you. I'm assuming that by Public Art, you mean temporary installations? I've seen a few calls such as that, but it seemed as though they were asking for already existing sculpture. Perhaps either I was mistaken or haven't come across any such calls.
A lot of cities now are involved in 'Sculpture Walks' where they will choose 25 or so sculptures to be installed on their streets for a year. You bring it in, set it up with their help and people vote for their favorites and if yours gets the most votes, the town buys it and they keep it permanently. They also have awards where you can win some money. This is a great way to get some exposure. Most will insure your piece against theft or vandalism but some won't and I would steer clear of them unless you have your own insurance that will cover it and from what I know it's not easy to get. It's also a great way to meet other sculptors, since everybody gets together for the 'opening days', they put you up at a hotel and give you a tee shirt! Try it. I've enjoyed the ones I've been involved in.

(P.S. The 'Lucy' sculpture is REALLY bad!)
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  #9  
Old 04-17-2015, 05:39 PM
raspero raspero is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

One must wonder about Lucy. Perhaps it's like Donald Trump's hair. One must wonder why he would walk around with that ridiculous looking hair. But it has become something of a trademark. As bad as it is, Lucy has people talking.

Richard
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  #10  
Old 04-19-2015, 12:16 PM
Mack Mack is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

Raspero: As bad as it is, Lucy has people talking.

Yes..."Get that thing out of here!"
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  #11  
Old 04-19-2015, 03:02 PM
Andrew Werby Andrew Werby is offline
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Re: How does one break into the monumental sculpture arena?

To me, those temporary outdoor sculpture exhibitions seem like a lot more trouble than they're worth. First, you have to build a large sculpture from permanent materials at your own expense, then you have to transport and install it someplace, usually half-way across the country. And then after a few months, you have to take it down and cart it away. Rarely do they actually buy the thing, and they usually offer a paltry $1000 or so to the chosen artists, who have to make presentations to be chosen for this honor that are nearly as much hassle to prepare as for real commissions. I guess the T-shirts make it all worthwhile...

I can see it from the city's point of view, though - they get all the kudos they'd get from commissioning a bunch of public art, but none of the hassles - if people don't like it (every piece of public art has its haters), they just have to wait a while and it will go away. And, of course, it doesn't cost them much either.

Andrew Werby
Juxtamorph.com

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mack View Post
A lot of cities now are involved in 'Sculpture Walks' where they will choose 25 or so sculptures to be installed on their streets for a year. You bring it in, set it up with their help and people vote for their favorites and if yours gets the most votes, the town buys it and they keep it permanently. They also have awards where you can win some money. This is a great way to get some exposure. Most will insure your piece against theft or vandalism but some won't and I would steer clear of them unless you have your own insurance that will cover it and from what I know it's not easy to get. It's also a great way to meet other sculptors, since everybody gets together for the 'opening days', they put you up at a hotel and give you a tee shirt! Try it. I've enjoyed the ones I've been involved in.

(P.S. The 'Lucy' sculpture is REALLY bad!)
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