UNAD Portal

Fund Organisation

Gilded Legacy: Gold Sculpture Collectibles with a Story to Tell

Gold sculptures are handmade artistic explorations that combine meticulous craftsmanship and conceptual detail. From the foot-and-a-half tall Castello cube that recently appeared in Central Park to a miniature version of Koons’s Easyfun sculpture Puppy, these collectible pieces are coveted for their uniqueness.

The precious metal has consumed alchemists, compelled explorers, and captivated artists for millennia. From Gustav Klimt’s paintings to a modern-day Kate Moss effigy contorted in an overly suggestive yoga pose by sculptor Marc Quinn, gold has made its way into the fine art and street art marketplace.


One of the oldest and most famous porcelain factories in Europe, Meissen has been coveted by European royalty and collectors for nearly 250 years. The distinctive blue mark with two crossed swords has become synonymous with fine Meissen pieces.

Located in Saxony, Germany, Meissen’s city museum uncovers the factory’s rich history. The city’s old town at the foot of Burgberg (castle hill) is lined with late Gothic buildings, craft shops and quaint courtyards. Nearby is the 15th-century Albrechtsburg Castle, along with the Church of Our Lady and the town hall.

The first clues to identifying authentic Meissen figures are the quality of the modeling and decoration. Then there are the characteristics of the material itself: Meissen is more dense than other porcelains and has a brighter glaze. Real Meissen will also be marked with a crosswise slash in underglaze blue.

Early Meissen pieces were grayish white, while those made after 1720 — when Horoldt changed the porcelain formula — are a brilliant white with a shiny, lustrous glaze. Identifying Meissen by color alone, however, is no longer enough. You can also look for Meissen signatures and monograms or the underglaze blue onion pattern. Until the 19th century, these markings were used to guard against forgeries.


Established in 1740 at Vincennes on the eastern edge of Paris, the Manufacture de Sevres soon developed a reputation for innovation. Its creamy white porcelain and celebrated shades of blue – the light “bleu celeste” and the deep “royal blue” – became its signatures. But the real breakthrough came in 1770, when chemists discovered how to turn kaolin (a rock-like material found near Limoges) into hard-paste porcelain, the kind that allows for more detailed decoration and better gilding.

Under Brongniart, the factory became a hotbed of experimentation and creativity. Using the finest craftsmen and artists, it produced works in a wide range of styles, from contemporary compositions to copies of paintings by Raphael or the other masters of the day.

By the end of the 20th century, when Kering took over the Sevres operation, it had become a public service institution charged with transmitting the porcelain craft and promoting technological and artistic research. But it also embraced collaborations with far-flung artists, architects, sculptors and designers like Jean Arp, Louise Bourgeois, Andrea Branzi, Matali Crasset, Charles Simmonds, Jim Dine, Pierre Alechinsky, Ettore Sottsass, and more. And, as at the beginning of the 19th century, the new head of the Manufacture, David Cameo, sought to maintain a delicate balance between the industrial and creative dimensions of the firm.

Choson Period Korea

The first modern period of Korea’s history, Choson (1392-1190), saw a flowering of art. New forms of ceramics were developed, painting flourished, and a Qua tang sep new alphabet for the Korean language was created. The last great cultural achievement of the Choson era was the establishment of Buddhism under state patronage, and many temples were constructed.

The emperors of the Choson dynasty were highly literate and well-versed in foreign cultures. They were keenly aware of the importance of building an art museum in their country, and they began collecting in a systematic manner (Komiya 1912: 1).

However, there were important differences between the collecting practices of the Choson court compared to those of contemporaneous scholars-officials in China or the Qing court. The latter were collectors of curios, whereas the Choson court was strictly bound by Neo-Confucian ideology, and Buddhist icons were banned from palace precincts.

As a result, embroidered works of art (such as gift wrappings and folding screens) and wares of the bureau of painting were popular among the elites in the early Joseon dynasty. Court painters provided female needlework artists with detailed designs that indicated compositional elements and color schemes, thereby allowing them to create embroideries that replicated the pictorial prototypes. By doing so, they were able to produce embroideries that were aesthetically more pleasing and better articulated than their Chinese counterparts.