From Horse Farm to Sculpture Garden

A compound in Sagaponack fulfills two artists’ dreams
Red Circles and Waves
Hans Vandebovenkamp’s sculpture “Red Circles and Waves” is among many on the grounds.

Hans Vandebovenkamp, who has fulfilled more than 100 commissions for his massive sculptures and had more than 50 one-man shows in different parts of the world, has executed perhaps his largest — living — sculpture to date in Sagaponack, where he and his late wife, Siv Cedering, set about transforming a former horse farm into a sculpture park, replete with chickens and golden pheasants.
    They bought the property, Ranch Court, about 12 years ago from Hank Wintjen, who had not only built a house there in 1975 but 13 outbuildings. Together, Mr. Vandebovenkamp (who recently changed the spelling of his surname) and Ms. Cedering, an artist and prolific writer, redid almost everything and, in the process, achieved their dream. The house was completely gutted and rebuilt and the small buildings were made functional for their work. A pond was put in and the grounds filled with sculpture.
    Although the place was a mess when they bought it, Mr. Vandebovenkamp gave the former owner credit for “the vibes of this place; I just rearranged it.”
    The house now gives testimony to the artistic life. It is full of vibrant color — on the walls, on furniture, and on rugs, both Native American and contemporary. High-end designer furniture shares room space with Asian pieces and Buddhas along with antiques from Ms. Cedering’s native Sweden, such as an armoire. The house is also an eclectic gallery, full of paintings, drawings, and sculptures, many by friends and local residents, including Priscilla Bowden, Denise Regan, Joan Semmel, Connie Fox, Bill King, Willem de Kooning, Syd Solomon, Larry Rivers, and Lou Zacks, among others. There is also at least one work by Picasso.
    Among Ms. Cedering’s paintings in the house is a landscape triptych that disguises three cupboard doors in the dining room. Ms. Cedering added sculpture to her artistic oeuvre after the couple’s marriage, and Mr. Vandebovenkamp made large casts of the small works for the grounds.
    The house now measures 3,500 square feet and has four bedrooms and five bathrooms. What Mr. Vandebovenkamp called “pokey” small rooms were opened up and French doors put in to replace tiny windows. A deck was added off the master bedroom, with a Jacuzzi on one end and a large canopied Balinese bed at the other.
    The flat ceiling of the master bedroom was raised into  a peaked roof. The room is 12 by 25 square feet, with a walk-in closet and two adjacent bathrooms. The bedroom and two other rooms overlook the pond, which has a diameter of 120 feet. Mr. Vandebovenkamp leases land on the other side of the pond and renovated stables to Amaryllis, an equine rescue organization. “I like seeing horses walking around . . . and deer, and turkeys,” he said.
    A small porch at one end of the house became a sunroom with a pyramid-shape window under the peak of its roof and a crystal chandelier near the window. It was Ms. Cedering favorite room in the house.
    After his wife’s death, Mr. Vandebovenkamp built a 40-foot pergola (or pergolata as she called it in a poem). It extends out from the entryway of the house and holds a grapevine. On the other side of the house, forming a sort of hedge between the path leading to the house and the parking area, are seven Asmat shields from New Guinea.    
    Having grown up in Holland, Mr. Vandebovenkamp said the property reminded him immediately of farms in his native country. He recalled that he had a struggle with the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, which wanted the outbuildings torn down. That their new neighbors liked what the couple planned helped persuade the Z.B.A., he said, to let them keep the buildings provided some were moved in from the property line and they were all renovated.
    Mr. Vandebovenkamp, who studied architecture in Holland before his family immigrated to Canada, earned a B.S. in design at the University of Michigan in the early 1960s. Not long afterward, he migrated eastward and found himself in Springs, near his compatriot Willem de Kooning. After marriage, children, and a divorce, Mr. Vandebovenkamp left the South Fork for New Paltz, N.Y., where he lived for 20 years.
    He and Ms. Cedering met when he returned to the East End. Before long, she sold the house she lived in on Further Lane in Amagansett, and he sold his farm near the Shawangunk Mountains. “I had a lucky period in my life that lasted 11 years,” Mr. Vandebovenkamp said of the time he spent with his wife. “She was so talented. She was extra ordinary. . . . She was a great love.” He characterized their marriage as a merger. Ms. Cedering died in 2007.
    Mr. Vandebovenkamp has collected many of her published works, which include poems, screenplays, and fiction, as well as TV programs for children and magazine articles, which he plans to donate to the University of Umea in northern Sweden, near where Ms. Cedering grew up.
    Walking along the paths through the grounds now, one is struck by its fine trees. When they started the task of creating a sculpture park, the couple removed 70 dead trees and planted 225 new ones, in addition to bringing a few from Ms. Cedering’s Amagansett property.
    As for the outbuildings, Ms. Cedering’s studio was a cottage on the farm when they bought it. A former garage for horse trailers is now a gallery that sits next to the swimming pool and close to one of the two chicken houses. Another small building is used for storage, and a former horse barn is used as a drawing studio.
    The only new building is a 2,700-square-foot sculpture studio Mr. Vandebovenkamp built about six years ago. A metal building sheathed in shingles, it is heated by solar panels on the roof and has radiant heat underfoot. Three glass garage doors on one side and one on the other roll up and down to get his large works in and out. The building has 20-foot ceilings and, at one end, a loft behind picture windows. The studio also has a 400-year-old Chinese wedding bed on a platform at one end. Mr. Vandebovenkamp sleeps in it occasionally.
    The studio is a great place for dinner parties, Mr. Vandebovenkamp said, explaining that he lends the space to musical and other groups. In addition, Mr. Vandebovenkamp has two sons and five grandchildren and Ms. Cedering had three children and five grandchildren. They are frequent visitors.
    The compound and the couple’s artwork are described in a book, “Saga­ponack Sculpture Farm,” published this year by Mr. Vandebovenkamp’s gallery, Bernarducci Meisel Gallery, and Louis K. Meisel. It was designed by Geralyne Lewandowski, Mr. Vandebovenkamp’s assistant for the last eight years. Also acknowledged is Mr. Vandebovenkamp’s sculpture assistant, Kevin Miller, who has worked with him for almost 20 years.
    Mr. Vandebovenkamp’s work, which has been described by collectors as a gateway to the spiritual, referred to himself recently as “a non-registered Buddhist.” In his opinion, however, neither the Dutch nor the Swedes are particularly spiritual. “They are more practical,” he said. Many of his friends have been involved in holistic and spiritual endeavors, which rubbed off, he said, and he may also have been influenced by his father’s becoming a Baptist minister in Canada after a career as a schoolteacher. All that notwithstanding, Mr. Vandebovenkamp’s art and his working and living spaces reflect his conviction that everything is interconnected. “Nature is my inspiration,” he said.