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Urs Fischer, Untitled (Lamp/Bear), 2005-06
Urs Fischer, Untitled (Lamp/Bear), 2005-06

SCULPTORS BATTLE RISING BRONZE PRICES

Aug. 16, 2011

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Did that $6.8 million price tag at Christie’s seem a bit hefty for the giant bronze Urs Fischer teddy bear? Maybe not. According to reporter Daniel Grant writing in the Wall Street Journal, the price of copper, the main ingredient in bronze, has soared in the last 10 years, with sellers like The Compleat Sculptor House in New York now reporting bronze prices that have tripled to $7 a pound since 2008. At Artworks Foundry, in Berkeley, Ca., the price of bronze has risen from $1.20 a pound to $5 in the last decade.

As a result, materials like the water-based plaster Aqua-Resin, fiberglass and terra cotta are making a comeback among cost-conscious sculptors, as are “faux-finish” powders that can add a bronzy luster. Artist Carole Feuerman told the paper that she can save $35,000 on a sculpture by using resin instead of bronze. Some artists resistant to these alternate materials are now outsourcing foundries in remote areas of Colorado, Mexico and Asia.

Then again, collectors rarely seem to notice (or care) about the materials, the paper said. As sculptor Bryan Hunt put it, “People pay to own one of my works, not for the materials used."

That at least would explain the Fischer bear’s price. It weighed in at a massive 35,000 pounds, which would have pegged the cost of raw materials at just $245,000 if the artist had used an East Coast foundry -- but he had it manufactured in Shanghai.


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