How Size in Art Matters

When visiting museums and galleries, one can enjoy artwork of any size. Spaces are designed for the works, and if sculptures are monumental or large-scale, they may be simply installed outside, allowing visitors to view the pieces from every possible angle. But do large works of art provide more enjoyment, a more in-depth experience, than smaller works? In other works, does size truly matter in art?

The Growth of Scale and Its Effect on Viewing

As is commonly stated, growth is exponential, and this is certainly true in art. As artists create large works, even larger works surface.  The term scale, however, refers to the size relationship of one thing to another, and in contemporary art, this has become a defining factor in art content. Scale of works can affect the subject and how the viewer responds. When standing before a work of art vastly larger than you, how can you not be humbled by its power and influence on your emotions?  Scaling is used by artists to emphasize parts—or all—of the creation. In addition, scale and specific location (placement) may both be part of the experience. Monumental sculptures placed in public spaces may remind the viewer of events, conditions, and stories which have occurred there or nearby.

Large Scale Works

Large works of art do seem to have an advantage in imposing a story on viewers. Works like Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment, on display outside of Auckland, New Zealand, is a powerful  example of how immense size transforms the art experience. At 85 meters long and standing as tall as an 8-story building, this imposing sight cannot help but impress and intrigue visitors. However, its abstract nature leads viewers to develop their own opinions about the subject of the work.

Large scale sculptures may also take art a step farther by incorporating impressive feats of engineering and technology. Kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson blends art and engineering in his artistic machines, using 3D modeling and computer tools to create works like his “Beholding the Big Bang”, drawing connections between man’s mastery of machines and the sheer power of the universe.

Small Scale Works

In direct opposition, tiny works of art an also pack a big punch. In opposition to the “bigger is better” culture in today’s modern art world, some artists have chosen to take economy into consideration and focused on not only creating smaller works, but to encourage the idea that humankind can function beautifully on a smaller scale, impacting the world emotionally without as much physical impact. Small scale works confuse and disorient viewers, forcing them to focus on what they are viewing, and creating internal discourse.  In the early 1970’s, artist Joel Shapiro was one of the first modern art sculptors to embrace the idea of small works, taking functional items, reducing their size, and showing a more intimate aspect of them.  Other artists create works of art from tiny pieces of cloth, stone, or other materials, and focus on works which can be easily collected.

The Collector: Taking Size into Consideration when Purchasing and Displaying Art

Although one should always choose art which speaks to you, size must be taken into consideration when looking for pieces to display in the home or office. Both large and small works offer benefits to the collector, and should be considered equally, depending on your specific needs.

Small Works on Display: For areas where you want to draw focus into a specific area, encourage private contemplation, or want to share a poignant subject, consider a small work of art. Small works are perfect for areas where visitors would be drawn in and not for a passageway, hallway, or area where people would remain only for short periods of time. Use a mix of small, related works to tell a story, and consider unique framing and pedestals to showcase the works you want to draw attention to.

Large Works on Display: When looking for something to fill a large space or provide that “WOW” on display, go big! A large work will demand attention, so it is perfect for a space where you are looking for someone to stop and notice. Remember to measure your area accurately so you aren’t surprised when the work fills what you thought was an expansive area. If you want to encourage visitors to take notice of a public area, a sculpture will inspire people to move around a space, taking in all angles of a large sculpture.

Remember when selecting and displaying any work of art, design your lighting to highlight the specific work on display, and choose pieces which complement the surroundings. When establishing or increasing your art collection, let Sybaris Collection show you a variety of works for all tastes and genres.  From our Private Art Advisory services to our various galleries and exclusive ARTclub offers, we can improve your art buying and ownership experience, so it is well-informed, satisfying and culturally educational.