A Walk in the Park

Pepsico’s Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens

By Margot Clark-Junkins

For many years, PepsiCo’s world headquarters, on Anderson Hill Road opposite SUNY/Purchase College, was free and open year-round to the public. Visitors flowed quite freely in and out of their spacious parking lot, eager to spend a few carefree hours wandering through the famously beautiful Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens.

It’s true that you never really know what you’ve got till it’s gone (thanks Joni Mitchell). The gardens were abruptly closed to the public in 2012, with several promises to re-open which never really came true. Some handwringing ensued in the arts community and among art and nature lovers.

And then suddenly, earlier this spring, without any fanfare, the public was invited back into the Garden of Eden. The good news is that everything looks very much as it always did: spectacular. The bad news is that visiting hours have been cut way back — Saturdays and Sundays, 10-4, from March 30-October 31 — and security is much tighter. A perimeter has been drawn around the offices, which were designed by architect Edward Durrell Stone in 1970, preventing visitors from enjoying David Wynne’s beloved <Girl with a Dolphin> (1973) in the fountain of the central courtyard.

On a positive note, school groups will be allowed to schedule tours during weekday hours. There is some ongoing construction that mars the left side of the building, but new garden beds are being carved and sculpted, dotted with small shrubs, perennials and young trees.

The land itself — once polo fields and before that said to be a landing strip for pilot Amelia Earhart (who lived in Rye in the 1930s) — was purchased under the leadership of Donald M. Kendall, PepsiCo CEO from 1965-86, who conceived the gardens. Once the building was dedicated, the grounds were laid out by E.D. Stone Jr. (son of the architect) in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, British landscape architect Russell Page (1906-85) was commissioned to create a formal design. It is worth noting that Page also designed the Frick Museum’s garden on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, recently saved from destruction thanks to significant public outcry.

Page’s lightly graveled “Golden Path” leads strollers through mini-forests and banks of deep-green rhododendrons and along a lake dotted with weeping willows. If you are inclined to follow the entire path, your patience will be rewarded by a latticed teak pavilion overlooking three consecutive water lily ponds, flanked on one side by a voluminous herbaceous border, and on the other side by several trained wisteria vines and a shady allée. Robert Davidson’s charming bronze <Frog> (1985), patinated a bright green, surveys the antics of real frogs with equanimity.

Certain views of the property will stop you in your tracks, and these are often punctuated by 46 monumental sculptures by many great artists of the mid-20th century, including Alexander Calder (<Hats Off>, 1971), Henry Moore (<Double Oval>, 1967), Arnaldo Pomodoro (<Triad>, ca. 1979), and Louise Nevelson (<Celebration II>, 1976).

There are two unexpected gems from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Auguste Rodin’s <Eve> (1881) and Aristide Maillol’s <Marie> (1931). A handful of works date from the 1980s, like Claes Oldenburg’s <Giant Trowel II> (1984).

According to a New York Times article by Suzanne DeChillo, Kendall continued to oversee the sculpture gardens into the 1990s. Their Art Program Director at that time, Katherine F. Niles, recounted that, “The building was dedicated in 1970 when eight works of art sculpture were put in a small garden, and people were excited about it. At the time Mr. Kendall said, ‘If everyone likes it this much, we’re going to keep this garden open forever.’”

Though we do not know who is selecting the art these days, PepsiCo’s most recent acquisition is also the most recently produced: Lenora Carrington’s <Music for the Deaf >(2007). Much of the later work in PepsiCo’s collection tends to be figurative, perhaps in an attempt to balance out Kendall’s typically mid-century leaning toward abstraction.

You can pick up a map at the Visitor’s Center next to the parking lot or add the more comprehensive “PepsiCo DMK Sculpture Garden App” to your cell phone (provides information about each sculpture).

Newly written rules suggest that one must stay on the path, but there were those who strode out across the perfectly manicured lawns, as was once the custom here. Indeed, one must leave the path to see many of the sculptures. Blissfully, there were no guards in evidence to shoo you away or tell you not to take pictures. Just the birds and the bees, groundsmen with lawnmowers, and an occasional jet from Westchester County Airport. Have fun!

< For more information, visit http://www.pepsico.com/sculpture-gardens or call 253-3150 during normal business hours.>

 

 

 

Alexander Calder, <Hats Off>, 1971

Robert Davidson, <Frog>, 1985

Aristide Maillol’s <Marie>, 1931

Louise Nevelson, <Celebration II>, 1976

 

Auguste Rodin’s <Eve>, 1881

 

Arnaldo Pomodoro, <Triad>, c. 1979

 

David Wynne, < Grizzly Bear>, 1976