Bronze Prices Rising, Artists Explore Other Materials

Stainless steel can be pricy too: Though Rob Pruitt's Andy Monument looks like it was forged from steel, it is in fact Fiberglass coated with reflective material. (Photo: James Ewing)

Sculptors have prized bronze for thousands of years, but some artists are abandoning it for other materials, as the price of copper, one of the key materials for making bronze, has risen in recent years, The Wall Street Journal reports today.

Marc Fields, the owner of a New York sculptor-supply company, tells The Journal that the price of bronze has tripled since 2008, and now stands at $7 per pound.

Artists instead seeking cheaper alternatives. Writes Daniel Grant:

“Mr. Fields said a growing number of artists are looking to Aqua-Resin, concrete, Fiberglass, gypsum- and polyurethane-based resins, plaster and terra cotta—which are less expensive than bronze… He said many of his customers are buying metal and mica powders that are poured into molds or applied as a patina to give a ‘faux finis’ that resembles bronze or other metals. In fact, resin sculptures are often labeled as ‘cold cast bronze’ or ‘bonded bronze,’ which may lead some buyers to believe they are purchasing a traditional bronze sculpture.”

Caveat emptor!

Material prices have also altered the plans of some of New York’s brightest art stars, including the panda-smitten artist Rob Pruitt, whose shiny Andy Warhol statue, The Andy Monument, now on view in Union Square, ran into trouble over the cost of stainless steel. A $80,000 bid to produce the sculpture using that material “ran into some budgetary limitations,” Mr. Pruitt tells Mr. Grant.

Thankfully, a solution was found:

“Someone suggested casting the piece in fiberglass, which cut the foundry costs in half (a different foundry was used). A coating on the sculpture gave it a metallic look, so you would never know.”

We suspect that Warhol, who made some of his most beautiful paintings by peeing on canvases coated with paint–copper-based paint, no less–would have loved it.

Bronze Prices Rising, Artists Explore Other Materials