Christie’s ‘Dream Big’ Is a Treat for the Large-Format Sculpture Lover

This selling exhibition has works by Louise Bourgeois, Marc Quinn, Richard Serra, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Jacques Lipchitz, among others—all displayed in situ.

A large sailver abstract sculpture sits in a park like space
Marc Quinn, Light Into Life (Photosynthetic Form); stainless steel; 94 1/2 x 115 x 52 3/8in. (240 x 292 x 133cm.) Courtesy Christie's

Large-format sculpture is not only awe-inducing but very often, public-facing or at least easily accessible, which adds to the appeal. From massive museum installations to the wild and weird art of Burning Man to the works that top London’s Fourth Plinth to New York’s High Line artworks that come and go, massive sculpture can transform an environment. A mammoth sculpture, well-chosen for the space it’s in, inspires conversations and boosts community engagement. It can be a beacon of hope, as with Fritz Koenig’s The Sphere, which was the only artwork to survive the September 11 attacks. Or it can be fun or disturbing to look at—Claes Oldenburg’s colossal takes on everyday objects are often both—even as it obfuscates some deeper meaning. “I wanted to make monumental sculpture a combination of philosophy, endurance and raw physical presence,” wrote sculptor David Breuer-Weil of his work Emergence in London. “I did not just want to decorate a piazza; I wanted to make a statement about who we are.”

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A large bronze sculpture of a woman in a dress with a large skirt and a headdress is displayed under cherry blossoms
Manolo Valdés, Reina Mariana (Queen Mariana) (2005); bronze; 92⅛ x 70⅛ x 48⅝in. (234 x 178 x 123.5cm.). Courtesy Christie's

Speaking of piazzas, so many immense statement-making pieces of art are owned by institutions, public or private, that it’s rather exciting to see works come to auction, ostensibly for purchase by anyone with the means. This summer, Christie’s will host the fourth installment of its online summer sale of monumental sculpture, Dream Big, which runs through the end of September. Calling it a selling exhibition is something of a stretch, as the works are each being presented in situ and most seem to be in private hands.

SEE ALSO: The Met’s ‘Collecting Inspiration’ Is a Trip Around the Globe in Silver and Glass

The notable exceptions are the three Marc Quinn sculptures in the auction—Singularity (Sabal), Light into Life (Photosynthetic Form) and Light into Life (Evolution of Forms)—currently part of “Light into Life,” now on show in London’s Kew Gardens. Several other sculptures featured here (Louise BourgeoisEye Benches III and Tony Smith’s Ten Elements spring to mind) are editions with sister pieces in public places, making them in a sense accessible. And if you’ve seen one Reina Mariana, you’ve seen enough to know whether this one is for you.  

A large curving sculpture of a femail form is exhibited outdoors
Jacques Lipchitz, Benediction II (1934-35); bronze with brown patina; Height: 56 ¹/₂ in. (143.5 cm.). Courtesy Christie's

Still, the sale does deliver on its promise of bringing together “exciting names” from across the 20th and 21st Centuries. There are works by Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, Manolo Valdés, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Jacques Lipchitz, among others, with prices ranging from £300,000 to £13,000,000. The theme’s the thing here—there’s not much beyond size to give the sale cohesiveness, though whether that matters is highly subjective. Jeff KoonsSmooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/Violet) stands out for its playfulness. Ai Weiwei’s Crystal Cube for its enigmatic seriousness. Fernando Botero’s Sphinx for its Boteroness.

One could be forgiven for wondering if this is the right time to invest in large-scale sculpture, given the doom and gloom that has defined so many recent reports on the state of the art market. But as Observer’s own art insider Elisa Carollo recently pointed out, savvy “collectors know this might be the right moment to look for a bargain.” Or if not a bargain, something that aligns with their collecting visions. Brobdingnagian is in, according to reports coming out of Art Basel. Artnet reported that a number of massive pieces in the fair’s Unlimited selection sold on VIP day, including Jenny Holzer’s Survival (1989) and Yayoi Kusama’s Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023). Maybe there’s something to Dream Big—you can add mega art to your mega collection without a trip to a mega fair.

Christie’s ‘Dream Big’ Is a Treat for the Large-Format Sculpture Lover