Sculptor Hans Van de Bovenkamp sits in his brightly lit Sagaponack studio, ready to tell a story.
The studio was once used by Van de Bovenkamp’s late wife, writer Siv Cedering, who died in 2007, and the artist speaks of her with great love. “We were married for 11 years and then she got sick and passed away,” says the Dutch sculptor. “I learned a lot. I was her caregiver for one year. I would pick her up, help her get dressed, take a walk around here, and she lived for another year. I just cared for her, I would lay down next to her, and it was really about love, and love opens up other doors.”
The fact that Van de Bovenkamp opens an interview about the new Hamptons SculptTour—a self-guided driving art tour that celebrates his work across the East End—with a story about his late wife speaks volumes about the sentimental stories swirling about his mind. This is a man with a lifetime of huge accomplishments, from significant exhibitions throughout the world, who donated a piece to Cassius Clay and then took a photo with Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali. And yet, as he goes through an overview of his career, Van De Bovenkamp is remarkably grounded. In the Hamptons, after all, artists come for respite and relaxation. And in the studio that Siv Cedering once inhabited, Van De Bovenkamp is at home.
Van de Bovenkamp was born in Holland and moved with his family to Ontario in 1957, before studying art at the University of Michigan. His love story with Cedering began in the 1960s, as did his career, in earnest. They both showed work at the Benson Gallery in Manhattan. “There, too, I met all the big artists early in the ’60s,” says Van de Bovenkamp. “I went to my opening and her opening. Most of her work was stone poetry carved like tombstones, some standing and some lying down. Very amazing. We had many of the famous poets coming to the house.”
Since the ’60s, Van de Bovenkamp’s work has been all over the world. He’s in permanent exhibitions in Holland, as well as the Danubiana Museum in Bratislava, Slovakia. While Van de Bovenkamp also paints, sculptures have provided him most of his income. At the Danubiana, “I had about 20-some pieces and they bought the whole show in one shot. I’ve had that three or four times. It, all of a sudden, puts me onto a different income level. You get such a big lump sum. I just would buy, in truckloads, metal. I figured if we go broke, we have the metal. I can work.”
It’s a method that clearly paid off. “I think if an artist gets under a spotlight, cumulatively, it helps. Because why would you spend $20,000 for a painting worth $2,000? What’s the difference?” he muses. “Well, it’s $18,000, but the one for $20,000, maybe it will be more valuable. The one for $2,000, you probably cannot resell. The publicity helps. One time I did a staring stunt. I had a show and I wrote down $1,500, $3,000 I think was my highest, or we’ll trade for one acre of land. People looked at it. I had no sale, no land. The next time I’d be at a show, I said, ‘I’m going to double my prices.’ I sold out.” Van de Bovenkamp believes that, for collectors, it’s a psychological thing. “Very rich people don’t want to buy a $2,000 painting. They want to tell their neighbors they just spent $2 million.”
The lovely specter of Cedering continues to find her way into the interview as Van de Bovenkamp talks about his expansive Sagaponack farm, which houses many of his sculptures. “We got married, and we had three weddings with different groups of people,” he recalls, “like for family and then friends and then crazy artists. We bought this farm. I’m sitting in the house. This was an overgrown … like a hippie place. We knocked a lot of it down, and then I rebuilt. It took me maybe two years and more than $1 million to get this whole place to operate.”
Today, Van de Bovenkamp continues to work with the help of his assistants, and sells through gallerist Louis K. Meisel. Sales were slow at the beginning of the pandemic, Van de Bovenkamp says, but picked up. “As things are picking up, I am 83, and I don’t have a lot of power and strength and energy,” says Van de Bovenkamp. “I have, fortunately, three people that work with me who totally understand what I’m doing and make my life easier. I run out of gas every hour.”
But Van de Bovenkamp isn’t really showing signs of slowing down—in fact, he’s been in talks with the Saudi Arabian government to create a massive, 50-foot-high structure that would go over eight lanes of highway as an entrance between Mecca and Riyadh.
As the interview draws to a close, Van de Bovenkamp looks around the room once again. “It’s not always been wonderful and painless,” he says. “But I’ve been blessed.”
About the SculptTour
Presented by Dan’s Papers, the SculptTour is an exciting opportunity to experience all the East End has to offer while engaging with beautiful art by renowned sculptors like Hans Van de Bovenkamp.
The Dan’s Papers SculptTour is both a rare opportunity to get close to works of art usually reserved for private galleries and sculpture gardens, and a chance to get to know the villages of the East End in a lovingly curated tour. Sculptures can be found in Riverhead, Southampton, Westhampton Beach, Sag Harbor and East Hampton using the tour map.
Mayor Maria Moore of Westhampton Beach was thrilled as four of Van de Bovenkamp’s pieces were installed in the village on Friday, May 7. “We’re so pleased that Hans Van de Bovenkamp has graciously chosen our village to display his sculptures for the season,” she said.
“These sculptures are viewed as the cornerstones of our great lawn of our village,” added Trustee Ralph Urban.
Louis K. Meisel, who represents Van de Bovenkamp, commented on his work, “When the light hits off his sculpture, the light gives its nautical stainless steel an almost holographic effect.”
Take a selfie with a sculpture and win dinner for two at Calissa! Photos should be sent to [email protected].
The SculptTour is presented in partnership with Louis K. Meisel Gallery and sponsored by The Enzo Morabito Team of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, People’s United Bank, Grassi & Co. and Hamptons Signs.
For the full Dan’s Paper’s SculptTour map, visit meiselgallery.com.