Care and maintenance
Original and Unique Stone Sculptures
Stone sculptures, for example those carved from stones such as Portland, Bath and Lincolnshire limestone, or marble, are normally suitable for permanent outdoor display. Others such as soapstone and alabaster are not.
As far as maintenance is concerned, many people prefer to leave their outdoor sculptures to attract lichens and other natural colourings. The natural patina that develops over time can be very attractive and add character to the sculpture. If you do want to attempt to maintain the sculpture's original appearance, it can usually be cleaned with a cloth or soft brush and water. If the dirt or discolouration is severe, a little bleach could be used as long as this is thoroughly rinsed away afterwards, but it would be best to try this on an unseen area of the sculpture first. Cleaning the sculpture too regularly may begin to spoil the surface. If you feel the sculpture needs more attention, contact the artist who will usually be willing to provide advice and may be in a position to clean the sculpture for you at an agreed cost.
The artist will always take great care to select materials that are totally free from defects and most sculptures can live outdoors for many years without any serious degradation. But stone is a natural product and imperfections; even in the case of stone sculptures normally regarded as suitable for outside display, can occasionally exist. Such imperfections may be of no significance, or may never reveal themselves. In warmer climates there are generally no problems associated with having stone sculptures outdoors. In colder climates, winter temperatures that drop below zero for a sustained period are generally too cold for sculptures outside as they may absorb moisture, freeze and then crack. In such circumstances you should try to raise the sculpture off the ground to prevent moisture being absorbed and as an extra precaution apply a concrete/driveway sealer to the underside of the base. In extremely cold areas it is recommended that you bring them inside for the Winter if possible.
Bear in mind that even seemingly disastrous breakages can sometimes be made good, so contact the sculptor for advice.
Apart from being less expensive, one of the advantages of a bronze resin edition is that it will not be targeted by thieves to the extent that a true bronze sculpture would be. In fact some exhibition venues now refuse to display real bronze sculptures because of the risk of theft.
Much of what has been said about stone sculptures applies to ceramic sculptures. If a ceramic sculpture has no glaze applied then generally people would allow it to develop its own character. If a glaze is applied, it will be easier to keep it in a condition closer to its original using the same techniques described above.
The artist will make it clear whether their sculptures are suitable for all weather outdoor display, whether it is advisable to take them inside during the winter, or whether they are for inside display only.
As with other sculptures a buyer must decide the extent to which they expect their sculpture to retain its ‘as new’ appearance. Some metal sculptures are designed to develop a weathered appearance. In the case of iron and steel, that may be a natural rust, which can greatly enhance the sculpture’s impact. In the case of copper, for instance, left to itself it will develop a natural verdigri, which can be very attractive.
Some metal sculptures are treated with a varnish finish, which will often last for 5 years, or so, but if the buyer wishes to keep the original appearance of the sculpture, it will be necessary to clean and recoat the sculpture occasionally. However, most buyers are content to allow the sculpture to develop in its own way.
Bronze sculptures will, of course, normally be left to patinate naturally.
Bronze, White Marble and other resin editions
Sculpture editions are usually made using materials such as bronze or white marble resin. Other materials can be used. For example, pure bronze.
A bronze resin edition is made by creating a mould of the original sculpture and then filling the outer skin of the mould with powdered bronze mixed with (normally) polyester resin. The resulting edition is often of lighter weight than the original sculpture but is extremely strong and durable. It can be patinated to produce the same kind of effects one would see with real bronze and with time it will develop even more character in a similar way to real bronze.
Please note that this information is based on material originally compiled by Jeanne Argent, to whom thanks are due.