Contemporary Figurative Sculpture Buying Guide

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Contemporary Figurative Sculpture Buying Guide

Sculptures have long been a popular form of art, and can encompass many different materials, styles and subject matters. Sculptures of many different sizes can be found, and this can include those suitable for indoor or outdoor display. There is a wide selection of figurative sculptures are available on eBay every day.

This guide will help provide information to new and experienced buyers of contemporary figurative sculptures by highlighting the different types, materials used, and where it’s best to position a sculpture.

Figurative Sculptures

· Figurative art refers to art which is derived directly from a real life source. Painting and sculpture are among the most common kinds of figurative art work.

· Figurative art is often defined as contrasting with abstract art, which uses less defined forms, shapes, lines and colours to create imagery which are not necessarily linked to real life, and often represent concepts such as emotional states.

· Figurative sculptures will often represent human figures, though many sculptures are available which represent animals, plants and religious and mythical creatures. Busts, often of famous historical figures are also often available. There are a few key types of figurative sculpture;


A popular choice, particularly for sculptures to be placed in gardens, these sculptures can be modelled after common and uncommon wildlife. Animals such as deer and rabbits are a popular choice, and birds are also a favourite. Smaller animals such as rabbits and hedgehogs are also popular.


A common subject for figurative sculpture, as well as other forms of figurative art, is the human form. These figures are often people positioned in a particular way, some of the most commonly used being thinking, dancing and reading.

Many contemporary sculptures are available which mimic the classical styles of Roman and Greek sculpture, and these are often a popular choice. Children and babies are also sometimes a subject of sculpture, as are mythical beings such as cherubs. Nudes are a common subtype of figure sculpture, and place a particular focus on the naked human form.


Religious sculpture is an ancient form of sculpture, and there are many contemporary sculptures which continue this theme. Buddhist and Christian sculptures are widely available, and Buddha statues are widely available and are a popular type of sculpture. Angels are another common subject for sculptures, and these are popular ornaments.

Busts and Masks

Many sculptures are busts or masks, which focus on the head and face of an individual. Many busts are of famous historical figures such as artists, writers, politicians and other leaders, though sometimes busts are available which are based on anonymous subjects. Busts are typically among the smallest type of sculpture available, mostly suited for indoor display. Some busts and masks, however, can be of a larger size.

Mythical Creatures

A very popular subject for sculptures is mythical creatures. These include elements from the mythologies of different cultures. These can include characters such as mermaids, fairies and gnomes. These kinds of sculptures are very commonly used as garden ornaments, or as part of water features.

Contemporary Sculpture

Contemporary sculpture is distinct from modern sculptures and antique sculptures. The key defining element which differentiates these different classifications of sculpture are the time period in which they were produced.

  • Antique sculptures are generally considered those made before the Twentieth Century. These can range from small busts to large wooden figures, and often use materials such as clay, marble and granite. Many of the antique sculptures available are made out of these durable materials, as they are more likely to survive the wear and tear of time.
  • The modern period covers much of the Twentieth Century. This era saw the rapid development of a number of emergent, revolutionary artistic movements, which saw a significant shift away from realism and similar types of artwork, towards significantly more abstract work. This era also saw the development of more modern sculpture materials, such as concrete and plastic, which opened up new sculpting opportunities.
  • Contemporary sculptures are those which were made in the last few decades of the Twentieth Century, up to the present day. Numerous different artistic styles are used for contemporary sculpture, and figurative sculptures are a popular type.  Contemporary sculpture has often tended towards abstract designs, though figurative designs remain popular and are widely available.

Sculpture Material

Many different materials have been used in the creation of sculptures, and these have different properties which can make them suitable for different situations.

  • Materials such as concrete and stone have long been a popular material for use in sculpture. These sculptures are often, but not always, intended for display outside, and are often of a larger size. Marble is a similar material, which is often prized for its appearance, and is used in a wide range of different types of sculpture. These sculptures are often very durable.
  • Wood is another possibility, and has been used as a sculpting material throughout the history of the art form. A wide variety of sculptures, large and small, made of wood are available. The treated wood these sculptures are often made be very durable.
  • Metal is a popular material for sculptures, particularly in contemporary sculpture.  Steel, iron and other metals make for a strong sculpting material while metals such as brass are often considered to be an attractive option. Metal structures can include from large, solid structures to small and relatively delicate ornaments.
  • Some sculptures are made out of glass, and the material is often used for its appearance. Glass sculptures may often be fragile, and suited more for indoor display.
  • Gold and silver are also sometimes used in sculpture. Due to the cost of these materials, such sculptures are often small in size.
  • Many contemporary sculptures, particularly larger ones, use a variety of different material which can create a combination of colours and textures which some find appealing.

Indoor and Outdoor Sculptures

There are numerous sculptures available which are suited for outdoor or indoor display, and there are a few important characteristics which can make a sculpture suitable for this.

  • Materials are a key factor here. Materials such as stone, concrete and metal are all often used in outdoor materials, whereas fabric, glass and more delicate materials are likely to be more suited to indoor display.
  • The size of a sculpture is also an important indicator, and is often the key decider in where a sculpture should be placed. A very large sculpture is often intended for outdoor display, whereas much smaller sculptures may be better suited to indoor use. Many sculptures can be found which are suitable for both indoor and outdoor display.
  • The subject of a sculpture can also be a factor. Smaller figures, busts and similar sculptures are more commonly displayed indoors. Wildlife sculptures, and those of mythical creatures such as fairies, are a popular choice for outdoor display, as are those which include water features.

Fitting a Sculpture with the Surroundings

Whether purchasing a sculpture for indoor or outdoor display, it is important to consider how it will fit into its surrounding. 

·Size can be a key element here, as a very large sculpture which towers over the surroundings and other sculptures can come to dominate the area, which may not be the desired effect.

· By the same token, sculptures that are too small may become lost amongst its surroundings. Materials can be another consideration.

· Modern materials are liable to clash against more modern materials, though these different elements can sometimes be artfully combined. Lighting and colour are also factors to consider.

· Some collectors enjoy to theme their collection, and this can be a good way to create an attractive and thematically consistent collection of sculptures.

How to Buy Contemporary Figurative Sculptures on eBay

· A wide range of contemporary figurative sculptures are available on eBay. To view the full listing of available sculptures, navigate to the Collectables & Antiques section. Sculpture can be found under Art. Items can be arranged by conditions such as price, condition and distance to seller as well as by the size and type of the sculpture. Auction and Buy it Now buying options are also available which provides flexibility in how a sculpture can be purchased.

· Prominent information such as the subject matter and the material of a sculpture is often prominently displayed in the item listing. Further information about an item is available on the item page, along with information about the seller such as feedback ratings and item reviews. This ensures a purchase can be made with confidence. It is also possible to ask the seller a question about the item on this page.

· If a specific sculpture is required, it may be easier and more effective to use the search function available at the top of every page. Searches can be made within specific categories, or to cover the entire site. Further information on effective use of the search function is available on the Search Tips page.


Contemporary figurative sculptures are available in a wide variety of materials, sizes and types, and sculptures can be found to suit all kinds of surroundings. A wide range of sculptures are available on eBay.

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