The mission of the Sculptors Guild is to promote, encourage, and serve as an advocate for sculpture and to make contemporary sculpture a relevant part of the cultural experience.
During the 1930's American art had not yet been recognized as a significant force in the international Artworld. As the industrial world struggled through the Depression many American artists were dependent for their livelihoods on government art programs (WPA) while European artists were heavily favored by museums, galleries, and collectors.
The founding of Sculptors Guild in 1937 was a seminal event for Modern sculpture in America. The primary objectives of the founders as stated in an early exhibition catalogue were: "to unite sculptors of all progressive aesthetic tendencies into a vital organization in order to further the artistic integrity of sculpture and give it its rightful place in the cultural life of this country."
Sculptors Guild benefited from the generous support of notable sponsors and patrons such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Morgenthau, Fiorello La Guardia, Conger Goodyear, Rockefeller Foundation, Directors of Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art.
The inaugural Sculptors Guild exhibition of 1938 included notable founding sculptors: Paul Manship, Chaim Gross, Jose de Creeft, Herbert Ferber, William Zorach, Jose De Rivera and Nathaniel Kaz. These founders were at the forefront of American Modernism especially in their openly expressed rejection of the staid conventions of traditional figurative art. The result was an aesthetic paradigm shift that would impact the international art scene during the years of reconstruction following the global devastation of WWII.
Sculptors Guild members have ranked among the most prestigious and significant artists of the past seven decades. During the 1940's David Smith exhibited regularly with Sculptors Guild. He remains an influential mid-20th century sculptor who was the American pioneer of welded steel constructions of expressive geometric abstractions.
During the 1950's, as Modernism exploded into prominence with New York City as the emergent international center of the Artworld, other Sculptors Guild members who propelled this great American sculpture movement forward along with David Smith were such renowned figures as Jacques Lipchitz, Louise Bourgeois, Seymour Lipton, lbram Lassaw and Herbert Ferber.
When Sir Jacob Epstein was inducted in 1955 as an Honorary Member of the Sculptors Guild he expressed that it felt a great honor to be nominated by a cadre of such accomplished professional sculptors.
Since then other select honorary members have included Mark di Suvero, George Rickey, Louise Bourgeois, Kenneth Snelson, Joel Shapiro, and Albert Paley. David Smith’s powerful influence has remained apparent in the later direct metal sculptures of many Sculptors Guild members such as Clement Meadmore, John Henry, Bill Barrett, Bruce Beasley, Michelle Greene, Richard Heinrich, Robert Perless, Joel Perlman, Judith Steinberg, Hans Van de Bovenkamp, Stephen Keltner, Ann Jon, Lin Emery and Jean Woodham.
Modernist expressionist figurative sculpture also continued to flourish throughout seven decades include notable Sculptors Guild sculptors such as: Paul Manship, Chaim Gross, William Zorach, Jacques Lipchitz, Jose de Creeft, Nathanial Kaz, Richard McDermott-Miller, Peter Agostini, Bruno Lucchesi, Leonda Finke, Barbara Lekberg, Vera Manzi-Schacht, Carole Feuerman, and Mary Ellen Sherl.
Membership within Sculptors Guild has always been based on the selection of sculptors with proven qualities of aesthetic excellence and professional standing. Sculptors Guild has a proud heritage of meritocracy without gender bias long before most other Artworld institutions finally properly recognized the great sculpture works of women artists. Some of the more recognized female sculptors have included: Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Dorothy Dehner, Jean Woodham, Helen Escobedo, Lin Emery, Leonda Finke, Nancy Grossman, Mary Ann Unger, Nancy Azara, Donna Forma, June Ahrens, Judith Steinberg, Lucy Hodgson, Eve Ingalls, Irene Gennaro, Vera Manzi-Schacht, Mary Ellen Scherl, Michelle Greene, Elizabeth Knowles and Carole Feuerman.
With the advent of the new millennium the Sculptors Guild has enjoyed a resurgence of interest by emerging sculptors of various divergent aesthetics. The continuation of the extensive history of prominent sculpture visionaries within Sculptors Guild avante garde has extensively expanded during the past decade to include the notable digital sculptors: Bruce Beasley, Kenneth Snelson, Jon Isherwood, Robert Michael Smith, Michael Rees, Barry X Ball, Dan Collins, Mary Bates Neubauer, David Smalley, Greg Lock, David Morris, Michael Zansky and Dan Henderson.
For decades the Sculptors Guild exhibited annually at Lever House in Midtown Manhattan until change of ownership during early 1990s. Other significant Sculptors Guild exhibition venues have included: Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Washington Square, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, American Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Gardens, Grounds for Sculpture, Chesterwood, City of White Plains, and Rockland Center for the Arts.
In 1993 Sculptors Guild opened its first foreign exhibition in Kyoto, Japan. During 2008 Sculptors Guild participated in international art fairs at Art Cologne and Supermarket Stockholm. For the past four summers Sculptors Guild has maintained an exhibition space at Governors Island, opened a gallery space during 2010 at Sculptors Guild office on second floor at 55 Washington Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn and now presents at Housatonic Museum.
Sculptors Guild actively continues its mission today as a not-for-profit organization based in New York City with a professional membership of acclaimed sculptors of diverse aesthetics. The primary goal of the organization remains the promotion of sculpture and sculptors through exhibitions and educational outreach programs.