As the gallery director of DTR Modern Gallery on Palm Beach, Bryan Walsh spends his days surrounded by amazing artworks and getting to know the artists behind them. These relationships have informed the type of art he displays in his own home in West Palm Beach’s historic Flamingo Park neighborhood, including the bright white contemporary sculptures in his garden.
A&C: How did you go about curating this collection and what are some highlights?
Walsh: Apart from Keith Haring, I have met all the artists and have forged friendships with them. It makes their works even more special. The big heart sculpture, Big Love, was a wedding gift from the artist Rainer Lagemann. It was the focal point on the stage at the wedding, and now every day I get to look at it in my garden. It brings me joy every single day.
Once an artist’s work speaks to me it becomes a chain reaction. In the garden I have larger outdoor sculptures, but inside the house you’ll find small works by each of these artists as well. When I first
started collecting, everything was very traditional and classical, both in painting and sculpture. Since my taste has evolved, everything is modern and contemporary. My house is a 1925, Spanish-style house with the character and charm of that design, and with the juxtaposition of the contemporary sculptures it works quite beautifully.
Why the emphasis on white?
It is quite intentional that all the sculptures are white because when I entertain, I like to do lighting, and you can transform a white sculpture into any color sculpture you want by putting a colored lens over the light. Let’s say you’re doing a Valentine’s party and you want to have hot pink or red, you can do that with the lighting. Anytime I do a dinner party in the dining pavilion it’s magical to see the sculptures illuminated in the background. It adds to the ambience. The white lends a cohesion to the collection even though they are very different styles. The green tropical foliage as a backdrop allows the sculptures to pop.
What maintenance issues are there in having outdoor sculpture in Florida?
The main thing that I look for in any of the sculptures in my collection is that they can be sustainable in Florida’s humid and really wet environment. Most of the sculptures are aluminum with either powder coating or paint, or stainless steel with a powdered coat so they can endure the elements. Sculptures made of a medium that is not corrosive are pretty easy to maintain. [They typically] just require occasional washing and then some of the works require a light waxing.
Labor of Love
A highly regarded entrepreneur and businessman, John Sculley’s career included stints as president of PepsiCo and CEO of Apple during the 1980s and early ’90s, followed by investments in a string of tech companies. His wife, Diane, has a background in construction and has been involved in the building and designing of many local homes. Together they fulfilled their dream to have an oceanside home in Palm Beach, where their sculpture garden serves as a beautiful complement to the grounds and a deeply fulfilling creative endeavor.
A&C: What was your motivation behind establishing a sculpture garden?
John: We are not really curators of collectable art—we did it for what we enjoy being around. We came across the works at different times and fell in love with them. Jane Manus became a friend, and we now have two of her works. Diane is a very good designer and has really been the mind behind what we created.
Diane: When we bought the house, I wanted blue shutters and a blue front door that referenced the ocean and the Greek island houses we had fallen in love with. They lend the backdrop to a sheltered, sweeping lawn that John always wanted for his sculpture garden—a collection of five large, contemporary figurative and abstract sculptures in different materials. I’m on the lookout for another but haven’t come across it yet.
What was your thought process behind landscaping the garden?
Diane: We planted a thick row of tall trees around the garden on all sides to obscure [it] from the road and neighboring houses. The simple color palette
of the low, light-green hedges bordering the lawn contrasts with the taller, darker green foliage behind [and] focuses the eye on the sculptures. Gino Miles’ stainless-steel Forever sculpture stands against the green foliage at the north end of the pool. We framed it with a group of palm trees that draws you in and makes the piece stand out even more. Reflections in the pool add another dimension to the sculpture.
We recently redid the garden and laid down a new lawn with the help of Justin Dwyer of Greenscape Design Landscaping in Lake Worth. Justin goes not just one mile, but a hundred miles to get things done. When we needed to have a sculpture moved, we didn’t have to say anything. He gets the equipment, figures out how to move it, and how much it weighs.
Did you have a strategy for where to place the sculptures?
Diane: It was a very personal choice. We wanted to give space to Jane’s two blue painted abstract pieces so we could walk around them and see all the angles. We placed them together in a central area on the lawn in conversation with one another—like a mother and child piece. It made sense to have Boaz Vaadia’s Asaf with Dog sitting on a stone slab placed at the side of the pool watching the swimmers. We deliberately placed [Dorit Levinstein’s] Matisse Dancers on the lawn close to the house so that it serves as a welcome piece and can be seen from the large dining room windows. The floating, life-size, brightly colored dancers make people happy. Dancing in the backyard—how can that not be happy?
Full of Surprises
Peggy Moore and her husband, Dudley, live in a historic Palm Beach home designed by John Volk, the same architect behind The Royal Poinciana Plaza. Peggy Moore is one of the leading lights in The Garden Club of Palm Beach and takes great pride in her own garden. The charming environment she has created is an ideal setting for a variety of sculptures, many of which hold personal meaning to her and her family.
A&C: How have you curated your sculpture garden?
Moore: Sculptures make your garden come alive. [They] make it more interesting. My garden is a flower garden filled with trees, hedges, and fountains, and it has paths that lead you to discover a variety of enchanting sculptures. When my landscape architect, Mario Nievera, and I were working on it together, he said that each little place in the garden is a different room. I like coming into the room and seeing Leda and the Swan
nestled against a wall of greenery. It’s a little special place, [and] I think it also gives some fantasy to the garden, which I like. Farther along you discover another surprise. Everything in this garden looks different.
How did you decide where to place certain sculptures?
The Barry Flanagan was the first one for this yard; the musical theme and the sense of having a good time made this perfect for Florida. It stands framed by an arch of leaves facing the loggia, giving the impression that it has jumped out of the hedge. Having the Fernando Botero oversized, handsome woman on a horse in the driveway at the front of the house is a good way to leave or enter. It’s more fantasy.
Which sculptures are particularly personal to you?
The little bronze boy on the bicycle we found in Bermuda when the kids were small. It sits on the ground as you step out onto the terrace. The one I have in Atlanta that’s coming down looks just like my daughter did—sitting on a bench reading a book. They just mean something to you. They talk to you. It’s something you can enjoy every day.
Sculpture Care 101
Palm Beach County is home to many public sculpture gardens, including those at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, the Norton Museum of Art, and The Society of the Four Arts. As the staff at these organizations know all too well, Florida’s humid, windy, and salty environs can cause issues for sculptures of all materials. Here, Stephen Futej, aka the “Sculpture Doctor” and a consultant to The Society of the Four Arts, shares maintenance tips for private collectors.
- At the outset, bring in a conservator for initial evaluation and consultation. The ideal is to work from a position of preservation and prevention rather than repair.
- Monthly inspections help professionals develop familiarity with an object, so they’re aware when there’s a change in condition. Dated photographs are also useful.
- As a general rule, schedule a maintenance plan to have a professional expert apply noninvasive protectants two to four times a year, depending on the material and individual piece.
- Immediately remove highly corrosive bird droppings using a mild dish soap and filtered water.
- To ensure stability, most sculptures rest on a base. If necessary, a concrete pad can be poured to provide a level surface. Other anchoring devises can also be applied.
- Have an engineer ascertain the wind speed a sculpture can withstand. In some instances, sculptures will need to be moved to safety in advance of a hurricane or storm.
- A change in patina can occur on bronze. It can be a personal choice by the artist or collector to allow for patina to occur. Sometimes, fresh foundry-style re-patination or re-painting is desired. Conservators will often use faux painting methods to visually unify a degraded patina. However, preservation through maintenance visits is the preferred method.