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Hamptons Life

Jul 10, 2018 11:16 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hans Van De Bovenkamp: At Home And At Work, Defining Landscape Through Sculpture

Sculptures by Hans Van de Bovenkamp. ANNETTE HINKLE
Jul 10, 2018 11:40 AM

Even if you’re not actively searching for it, it’s hard to miss Hans Van de Bovenkamp’s house and studio off Sagg Road just outside Sag Harbor. A giant pair of sculptural gates marking the entrance to his driveway swing open as a car approaches.

“Each gate weighs between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds,” explained Mr. Van de Bovenkamp on the other side. “I wanted to make some kind of outrageous statement before I’m out of the picture.”

And what a picture it is.

The 7-acre property, known as the Sagaponack Sculpture Farm, is populated not only by a collection of happy chickens, but also an extensive collection of the artist’s massive abstract sculptures, the type of work for which he is best known. They come in all sizes, shapes, hues and finishes and Mr. Van de Bovenkamp is happy to show visitors around.

“I work in bronze and stainless steel—marine grade—so it doesn’t rust,” he said. “The salt eats things here.”

Inside his large studio, there are more sculptures, including one that vaguely resembles a rooster, complete with a comb on top. But it’s not just sculpture. Mr. Van de Bovenkamp also creates drawings and paintings, which line the walls of the space.

At 80, the Dutch-born artist has settled nicely into his life as a creative soul on the East End. He bought the property in 2001 with his late wife, artist and writer Siv Cedering, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, and many of his dealers and collectors now come there to see him and his work, in situ.

But this summer, Mr. Van de Bovenkamp’s work can also be seen at Noted Gallery in Southampton. Running now through August 7 is “Water’s Edge: Reflections & Refractions,” a group show featuring the sculptural work of Mr. Van de Bovenkamp along with art by Barbara Vaughn and Rex Ashlock. Last month, several of his drawings were on view in the gallery in a previous show, and from July 5 through 8, Noted Gallery featured his work at Market Art + Design held at the Bridgehampton Museum.

For Mr. Van de Bovenkamp, Noted Gallery and its owners Carl Murray and wife Liz Fraser Murray represent the next generation of collectors and are instrumental in introducing new clients to his work.

“I’m getting access to younger people ages 30 to 50 who are ready to buy,” he said. “My career is going up … I’m grateful.”

Helping to make Mr. Van de Bovenkamp’s sculptures a reality is long-time studio assistant Kevin Miller, who, for 20 years, has been bending, shaping and tacking together pieces of metal to form his designs. Though his house and studio is in the country, many of Mr. Van de Bovenkamp’s largest sculptures end up in urban landscapes where they mark the entrance to tall office buildings. His work’s relationship to the built environment makes sense, given the fact that before he was an artist, Mr. Van de Bovenkamp, who came to the United States at the age of 18, studied architecture at the University of Michigan.

That experience and his understanding of how architecture communicates with its setting has been instrumental in his sculptural work—not only in terms of designing it to withstand the elements and winds, but also the way in which a sculpture interacts with the building it is placed in front of.

“I create large sculptures to relate to a building, like a handkerchief in the pocket of a tuxedo,” he explained. “It humanizes the space and when it’s strategically placed, it helps you see where you need to enter.”

On a table in Mr. Van de Bovenkamp’s studio is a sketch for a potential new commission. It’s a sculptural monument to mark the entrance of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas where, on October 1, 2017, a shooter on the 32nd floor killed 58 people attending an outdoor concert nearby.

His idea includes a “portal of transition,” an arched sculptural piece that pedestrians will walk through. A vertical slab nearby will contain the names of the victims of the attack. Footsteps leading through the arch will feature sayings by Buddha and the Dalai Lama. Mr. Van de Bovenkamp will present his submission in October, along with other competing artists, and he finds the use of portals significant in marking transitions or ushering in a new realty.

“My work is about spiritual energy, like the portals I have on the property,” he said. “In Chinese and Japanese culture, they use portals from one part of a garden to another or at an entrance to buildings.”

This notion of portals in his work began in his native Holland where, he said, the flat landscape was marked by simple gates designed to keep livestock contained. The gates were something of an illusion, however, because there was no fencing, just deep culverts that couldn’t be seen from a distance and which the animals wouldn’t cross.

The memorial is just one of several projects currently occupying Mr. Van de Bovenkamp’s time and he finds that feeding his creativity also energizes his soul.

“I’m busy with a lot of projects. I have a resume of unrealized projects four times as long as what I’ve accomplished,” he said. “I’m grateful about the creative exercise. I keep doing it, it’s peace and calm and one thing leads to the next.”

Mr. Van de Bovenkamp is also grateful for Denise Moore, his partner in life and work who has taken on many facets of his business so he can focus solely on the creative end.

“I was lucky with Siv, now I’ve been with Denise for eight years, so I’ve been lucky twice,” he said. “Siv was a goddess and so is Denise. Denise looks after me. She’s great.

“I have pulled back and am just working in the studio. She’s handling the business and the sales.”

Currently, Ms. Moore is also designing a line of jewelry based on Mr. Van de Bovenkamp’s work—taking his 40-foot sculptures and turning them into miniature art in the form of wearable earrings, necklaces, cufflinks and bracelets. The line will launch this fall and is expected to be sold in museum shops and high-end art stores.

“I feel the whole package is complete and more accessible,” he said. “My big sculptures are expensive, my small sculptures are more expensive than my drawings and the paintings—and the jewelry is the most affordable of all.”

And the best part? Fans can carry a little of Hans Van de Bovenkamp wherever they go.

To see Hans Van de Bovenkamp’s work in person, stop by Noted Gallery, 64 Jobs Lane, Southampton, or visit notedgallery.com.

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