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Venus of Willendorf, c. 24,000 – 22,000 B.C.E.
Height: 11.1 cm (4.4 in.)
Courtesy of The Natural History Museum Vienna, Vienna

Stone is a hard material composed of mineral or rock substance, either extracted through a mining process or simply found from the earth’s surface. Shapes and sizes of stone differ depending on the purpose and in the context of art, stone is used in sculpture and installations, as well as when making pigments by grounding it as powder. Stone is a versatile and dynamic medium as each type of stone has its own color and unique surface pattern and different hardness.

The material’s exceptionally durability is another reason why stone has been loved by artists as their choice of medium throughout the history of human artistic expression. A 45,500-year-old painting on rock of pigs that depicts a social interaction of warty pigs in Indonesia is estimated to be the most ancient surviving image. The sculpture referred to as the first Venus figurine, Venus of Willendorf dates back to 24,000 – 22,000 B.C.E. as a fertility figure, a good-luck totem, and a mother goddess symbol.

Koo Hyunmo
House, 2014
Wood, stone
10 x 15 x 15.5 cm (3.9 x 5.9 x 6.1 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul

In contemporary art, stone manifests itself in various magnitudes, from small-scale indoor sculptures to larger installations that are more suited as public art. In the solo exhibition of Koo Hyunmo at PKM Gallery, Seoul, resemble (Apr 22 - May 22, 2021), Koo showed his delicate and adept skills in small-scale sculptural installations using materials such as wood and stone, incorporating elements of his home into the gallery space. Challenging the traditional concept of private and public, Koo does not adhere to a singular narrative, but rather merges and blurs the lines between seemingly opposing concepts such as reality and fiction.

On the extreme opposition in size, there is Ugo Rondinone, who is well-known for his large scale land art sculptures. Rondinone created nine colossal human figures titled Human Nature in stone for Rockefeller Plaza, New York in 2013. Each figure reached 16 to 20 feet in height, and their immovable legs acted as gateways through which people could pass. The installation offered the public an interactive experience by allowing them to touch and feel the rough surface of the sculptures, adding a sensory element to work.

Installation view of Ugo Rondinone: Human Nature, 2013
Bluestone, concrete, steel
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of Public Art Fund, New York. Photo: Bart Barlow

Related categories

Mixed Media

Land Art


Figurative Sculpture

Natural Resources

Image Production/Reproduction/Transformation

Color and Form

Natural Materials


Public Art

20th Century Art

Found Objects

Contemporary American Art

Surrounding Environment

Contemporary Korean Art

Mineral Pigments

Participatory Art

Primitive Art

21st Century Art

Smooth and Flat Surface

17th Century Art

Textured Surface

Stone Carving

Figurative Art