Small forms of sculpture include the figurine, normally a statue that is no more than 18 inches (46 cm) tall, and for reliefs the plaquette, medal or coin.Modern and contemporary art have added a number of non-traditional forms of sculpture, including sound sculpture, light sculpture, environmental art, environmental sculpture, street art sculpture, kinetic sculpture (involving aspects of physical motion), land art, and site-specific art. A collection of sculpture in a garden setting can be called a sculpture garden.One of the most common purposes of sculpture is in some form of association with religion.

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Another grand form of portrait sculpture is the equestrian statue of a rider on horse, which has become rare in recent decades.

The smallest forms of life-size portrait sculpture are the "head", showing just that, or the bust, a representation of a person from the chest up.

In archaeology and art history the appearance, and sometimes disappearance, of large or monumental sculpture in a culture is regarded as of great significance, though tracing the emergence is often complicated by the presumed existence of sculpture in wood and other perishable materials of which no record remains; the totem pole is an example of a tradition of monumental sculpture in wood that would leave no traces for archaeology.

The ability to summon the resources to create monumental sculpture, by transporting usually very heavy materials and arranging for the payment of what are usually regarded as full-time sculptors, is considered a mark of a relatively advanced culture in terms of social organization.

Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving (the removal of material) and modelling (the addition of material, as clay), in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials but, since Modernism, there has been an almost complete freedom of materials and process.

A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded, or cast.The actual cult images in the innermost sanctuaries of Egyptian temples, of which none have survived, were evidently rather small, even in the largest temples.The same is often true in Hinduism, where the very simple and ancient form of the lingam is the most common.The revival of classical models in the Renaissance produced famous sculptures such as Michelangelo's David.Modernist sculpture moved away from traditional processes and the emphasis on the depiction of the human body, with the making of constructed sculpture, and the presentation of found objects as finished art works.Relief sculpture may also decorate steles, upright slabs, usually of stone, often also containing inscriptions.