NEPTUNE MAKES A SPLASH AT VMFA
A 7-foot-tall statue of Neptune, a model of Richmond artist Paul DiPasquale’s famous statue in Virginia Beach, was installed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts this week.
King Neptune is on the move.
A model of Paul DiPasquale’s famous Neptune statue in Virginia Beach moved into the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts sculpture garden in Richmond this week.
The 7-foot-tall bronze “maquette,” or sculptor’s model, was installed at the base of the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden waterfall near the main entrance to the museum.
“It’s the perfect place for him,” the Richmondbased sculptor said by phone.
The Neptune at the VMFA is about one-fifth the size of the massive artwork in Virginia Beach. At 34 feet tall, that Neptune towers over the boardwalk with his giant trident.
The model at the VMFA is one of six bronze casts that were created in 2004. DiPasquale said he had some miscommunication with the foundry in China because of cultural and language barriers.
“Neptune has webbed fingers and they kept changing that. They put long fingernails like claws on him,” DiPasquale said. “I said, ‘This is my King Neptune. He’s a little different.’ I wanted veins and pointed to where I wanted the muscles.”
DiPasquale spent this past summer adding detail to the maquette.
“This one is slightly different than the Virginia Beach statue. The fish are different. The octopus is in a different place and there are other small differences, like with the dolphins,” DiPasquale said.
This is the first sculpture by DiPasquale to be added to the VMFA collection.
Besides Neptune, DiPasquale is best known for the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue, the “Headman” on Brown’s Island and the “Connecticut” American Indian statue that has been moved a few times and now peers over the James River from the Lucky Strike building.
“The Neptune statue was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” DiPasquale said. “The location on the beach with nothing but the ocean and the sky in the background. I really wanted to get that.”
More than 50 artists submitted proposals for the Virginia Beach statue, but DiPasquale was the only Virginia artist in the running.
“I wanted to create a piece of art that would engage people,” DiPasquale said. “It takes some people by complete surprise. They don’t expect to see an 11-foot turtle hanging in the air. People get drawn into it.”
Neptune is a favorite with beachgoers. People pose for pictures and sometimes kids climb on it.
But at the VMFA, like all the art, Neptune is not meant to be touched.
The Neptune maquette was gifted to the museum by state Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne and his wife, Peggy. A native of the Hampton Roads area, Layne had served as King Neptune in the Neptune Festival and purchased the maquette as a reminder of his regal role.
When the Laynes moved from Hampton Roads to Richmond, they knew they needed to find a new home for their Neptune.
Layne mentioned the sculpture to VMFA Chief Financial Officer Hossein Sadid, who asked, “Why not put it here at the museum?”
“It’s not often that your CFO gets a major work of art,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said.
“People are going to love it,” he added. “It’s in such an appropriate spot, in the water, as god of the sea.”
Nyerges said the museum plans to keep adding works to the sculpture garden.
Other notable additions to the sculpture garden include “Chloe,” the 24-foottall head of a young girl by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa installed in 2017, and Dale Chihuly’s “Red Reeds” installed in the reflecting pool in 2012.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for “Neptune Virginia Beach Maquette” will be held Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. at the VMFA, 200 N. Boulevard.
The Neptune statue in Virginia Beach (above) is 34 feet tall. The Richmond version is 7 feet tall.