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This is one of a continuing series of articles on discovering, buying, commissioning, and displaying
art.  If you would like to see more articles click on this link
: WSG Articles

Like this article and would like to see some custom-made pedestals?  Click on this link: Pedestals for Sculpture

Sculpture at some point is a hard art form for potential clients to want to own.  Painting puts less demands on it's owners.  Just put some wire and hooks on the back and it's ready to hang.  With sculpture it is a little different.  Most sculpture needs, nay demands, to be viewed-in-the-round.  Viewing sculpture in-the-round becomes a floor space issue not a wall issue. Now the sculpture has become furniture/art situation not just a wall issue like painting.  What your new sculpture is placed for display on on can be important. 

How to handle this?  The easiest, least expensive way is to get a carpenter to build a rectangular box, paint it black and place the new sculpture on the box/pedestal.  Not very satisfying.  After black, change the color of the pedestal  to white, magenta, maroon, etc. and still the sculpture and pedestal look out of place in that perfect
place for sculpture in your home or office.

Lozenge Pedestal by Carl Wright 18"tall x 22" wide x 18" deep

A better solution would be to have the sculptor who designed the sculpture to make an appropriate wood pedestal
for the interior sculpture that was purchased.  Or maybe even better, have the sculptor design a pedestal and have
a cabinetmaker make it from the sculptors plans.  With this approach, you would be getting what you were looking for
originally when you fell in love with the sculpture.  It would also make sure that there was continuity of thought
between the sculpture and the pedestal.  With a cabinetmaker fabricating the pedestal for you, there would be
many practical considerations that he could make you aware of to make the pedestal more functional, more stable,
a longer lasting finish, etc.  The cabinetmaker could also suggest different woods that would carry the color or
theme of the sculpture through to the pedestal.

Design considerations for a pedestal are pretty open with just a few things to look out for.  These would include: importance of pedestal, height of pedestal, use of color and wood type. 

Importance of the Pedestal

The importance of the pedestal is an underrated item.  The pedestal is subordinate to the sculpture but at the same time it's purpose is to make the sculpture glow.  The pedestal should be unobtrusively pointing to the sculpture - particularly if the sculpture is of a low-key or taciturn disposition.  If the sculpture has a more active character,  the pedestal could have a bit more flair to it but not much.  The pedestal's job is to display and hold up the sculpture so the sculpture can shine.  The sculpture's job is not to hold the pedestal down to the ground because of it's wild design or color.


Red Post Pedestal by Carl Wright 33" tall x 13" dia

Height of the Pedestal

The height of the pedestal is pretty important.  The pedestal has to have the sculpture at the right viewing height for
it's audience.  This was brought home to me by a DC gallery owner who was approximately 5'4" tall.  She wanted
the main part or focus of the sculpture to meet her between mid chest and eye height.  That way she would not
have to look down or crane her neck to see a detail on the sculpture.  In the event of a taller sculpture with a
pedestal, she did not want it to tower over her and run the chance of being menacing.   

Determining a good height for the sculpture can be achieved two ways.  First ask the sculptor.  Get his input
and see how his vision works with you.  The second way is to place the sculpture on a table (tables are
normally 30" tall) and see how you like the sculpture.  Take out some dictionaries or other large, thick books and gradually increase the height under the sculpture to where it moves you. That is the right height.  This is an
instinctive thing.  If it feels right it usually is. Remember that the higher the pedestal the more important that it is
level.  Make sure that the pedestal has adjustable feet to compensate for uneven floors.

Use of Color

Color in a pedestal should be used judiciously.  Too much or too loud a mix of color and the pedestal becomes the center of attention not the sculpture.  That said, pedestals should be of a darker tone, most of the time, but not black.  Black is a tyrant of a color and will show any nicks and scratches quickly.  If you are slightly finicky this will ensure many nights repainting the black pedestal. Muted wood stains with a good urethane top coat to paint are preferred.  I find it adds a touch of interest to the pedestal without going overboard.  Also avoid white.  White is a color that your eye goes to immediately - not the sculpture.

Serpentine Pedestal by Carl Wright 36" tall x 20" dia.

Wood Type

A pedestal's job is to hold up the sculpture and be a pointing device to show off the sculpture.  Avoid using woods with pronounced grains woods like oak and ash. Even though oak and ash are hard and will put up with abuse
their grain can be a problem.  Woods like maple, birch, purpleheart, and mahogany make excellent woods for pedestals.  Maple, birch and purpleheart are hard and have no distracting grain.  Mahogany and cherry are
beautiful woods to use but are a tad soft and can dent if you set a sculpture down hard on them.  Oak, ash,
birch, and mahogany also take stain well.  Cherry does not stain evenly unless you have worked with it before and know how to accommodate it's shortcomings.   At all costs avoid any pine, sycamore, and other softwoods.  They dent very easily and do not take stain well at all.

Getting a sculpture is great, demonstrates sophistication, and is always appreciated by the artist.  But think about
 not only where to put the sculpture but on what.  A table is a good choice, but make sure that it is stable and does not rock back and forth.  The important thing is to love your new sculpture and where it is placed. 


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