Driving down Lambert’s Cove Road, I couldn’t help noticing a transformation taking place on one particular property. Was it a sculpture park, a public space … a private property? My interest was piqued further with each passing drive until I just had to find out for myself.
Tom Galloway and his wife, Catherine Carlson, bought their property on Lambert’s Cove Road four years ago from science writer Sylvia Mader. Mr. Galloway is a man of many hats: He writes, is a lawyer by training, and a collector at heart. He and his wife Cathy, a lifelong environmental activist and progressive philanthropist, split their time between Boulder, Colo., Martha’s Vineyard, and Washington, D.C.
Back when he was in college, Mr. Gallaway wanted to get a Ph.D. in art history, but there “was no money in art, and even less in art history,” so he went into law. He admits, “I tried really hard to collect what I could afford,” starting out with posters. He traveled a great deal for work, and while a public interest lawyer, he had grants from the German Marshall Fund to fly all over the world to look at mines, and Mr. Galloway made sure he had time to look at art, both at galleries and visiting local artists. He began educating himself “about how regional auction houses work, who specializes in what, how to authenticate something without paying a fortune, [what he calls] the mechanics of art.” As he became more successful on the legal side of his life, he was able to generate more resources to fuel his innate passion for art.
Mr. Galloway collects antique clocks, and owns around 25 to 30, mostly in his Washington, D.C., home. The oldest clock in his collection is a brass lantern clock from London, and dates to 1655. He was attending an auction in London with his girlfriend 30 years ago after she’d just gotten a big bonus, otherwise “we wouldn’t have had the money to do it.”
Most in his Island collection are tall face clocks, like the Scottish Aberdeen country clock from 1795-1805, with a painted dial, made from oak, or the London town clock made of either Honduran or Cuban mahogany, or the 1805-10 provincial clock from outside London. He also has a French comtoise (a name for French longcase clocks, according to collectorsweekly.com). There are three similar clocks in his bedroom, which Mr. Galloway explains “are German clocks, made between 1800 and 1910-15.”
From clocks he moved on to sculpture. Mr. Galloway likes biomorphic shapes — shapes inspired by forms found in nature. He has a sculpture “that is reminiscent of a [Jean] Arp biomorphic. Abstract human figures have always interested me.” He likes “the way the Cubists display the human body, breaking it into planes.” That’s also true for paintings and sculptures he has collected.
Mr. Galloway has a number of primarily Scandinavian Expressionist paintings. Prices of German Expressionism are extremely high, so he was forced to look to other countries. He could afford works from Scandinavia, and enjoys building a collection in a place where he regularly traveled when he represented the Central Bank of Norway.
Mr. Galloway learned that many Scandinavian Expressionists had studied in Germany in the same studios as the artists whose works top the art market today. Here again he got to know the regional Scandinavian auction houses and galleries representing native Expressionist painters. He continues to follow these artists today, and has about 20 pieces in his collection.
We walk over to a few small paintings by Maxim Bugzester (Polish-American, 1910-1978), who studied at the Bauhaus, and in Paris with Pierre Bonnard and Georges Braque, before heading to New York City, where he lived out his life. Galloway says, “He’s the exact artist I like to collect. He studied with the top names, he did all the training, he went his own way, but for whatever set of reasons, he never broke through as somebody else might have.”
On one wall is a small drawing by Wilfredo Lam, a major artist from Cuba, whom Mr. Galloway tells me “studied in Paris, and his best friend was Picasso. He came in the second tier of Cubism, and is very famous in France.” There’s also an Ilya Bolotowsky (1907-1981, American/Russian) painting; the artist, Mr. Galloway says, “was one of the best known neo-plasticists in New York, and a disciple of Mondrian.”
Noticing a wall with paintings that have a more tribal feel, Mr. Galloway explains that his law firm also did work in Australia. And I am correct, all the work is Aboriginal and includes work by Minnie Pwerle, who only began painting at age 80 and sadly died six years later in 2006. Her work is often compared with her sister-in-law’s, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, whose work hangs on another wall.
Wherever his work has taken Mr. Galloway, he makes a point of checking out the local art scene, which in Australia included Perth and Darwin, and learning all about the artists.
Getting back to collecting sculpture, Mr. Galloway explains, “Sculpture I buy almost without regard for who did it. I buy it purely for its esthetic appeal.” When Mr. Galloway began putting his sculptures outside and even visible from Lambert’s Cove Road, he never considered that strangers would begin to arrive at his door. Part of his property used to be a hill, and became a sandpit: “If you don’t have a backdrop [in the landscape], you almost have to have a monumental piece. One of the things we liked about this property was it is almost ideal for sculpture.” It gives Mr. Galloway an ongoing opportunity to create outdoor rooms, make trails, use dead trees from the property to make benches, and make pedestals.
Mr. Galloway and I walk down from his home along the drive, which has sculpture on both sides, as we make our way to the largest area of his collected works. Galloway keeps a database of all works in his collection. He does a lot of trial and error to get the pieces set right; he sometimes can’t decide where to put pieces or what the base should be.
The sculptures range from stabiles (abstract sculptures on bases) to amorphic (abstract curves hinting at organic forms). Mr. Galloway believes, “If a sculpture park is done well, it’s one of the most beautiful things that exists. It’s meant to be an inviting place that’s a respite.” I learned a great deal about the collecting passion of Tom Galloway, am thankful he welcomed this stranger at his door, and look forward to future visits to his property to explore the changing sculptural landscape.