Virginia Beach, Virginia
King Neptune Statue
King Neptune
Paul DiPasquale working on Neptune
working on Neptune in China
Neptune in 60 tons of clay
pouring molds
shoulder casting
Installation at Virginia Beach
Installation at Virginia Beach
From the Hilton Balcony at Virginia Beach
Neptune at sunset, Virginia Beach
Neptune MAQUETTE FOR FUNDING bronze edition of 50

Virginia Beach Neptune Festival

The Competition

In February of 2003, Paul DiPasquale received a phone call from Cameron Kitchin, Director of the Contemporary Arts Center of Virginia Beach asking the sculptor to submit a design for the Neptune competition sponsored by the Neptune Festival of Virginia Beach. Fifty entries from around the country and world had responded to their Request for Bids but none from Virginia.

DiPasquale met with Nancy Creech, veteran Festival director of 18 years of the 32 year old organization and former city councilwoman. They looked at the site, talked around budgets and two weeks later he submitted the winning clay model to the Festival’s sculpture committee. His was the only entry that interpreted the 16 foot height requirement for the Neptune figure as from the waist up. Thus the mass alone of the sculpture far exceeded the competition. And as it turned out, so did Neptune’s attitude and classical/modern treatment.

The Design and the Site
The design was simple: The restrained pet loggerhead turtle under Neptune’s left hand defined his water world from the waist down. Thus the 12 foot rock base which supported the dolphins, fish, lobster and octopus (and Neptune) all swirled around Neptune in his ocean while in immediate touch with the Lilliputian land folk. The sculpture and the site and was to be opposite Neptune Park at 31st and Atlantic Avenue, and had been under consideration with developers of the new Hilton Hotel, the city and Ms. Creech of the Festival for over six years.

On the sand, with the sea, sky and beach as backdrop, the site real estate commitment by the city as well as the bronze and rock base height and size specifications by the sponsors were unique in modern public sculpture presentation. And the private funding was also unique, raised entirely within the Festival’s community of participants.

Budget and Production
DiPasquale and the Festival Sculpture Committee worked on budget and deadline limits and planned an edition of 32 bronze 22" maquettes to be used a fundraising incentive gifts. Eighteen additional maquettes were to be sold after the unveiling. Initial cost projections were kept low because the sculptor planned to build the full scale model in wood and foam with a tooled plaster skin, ready for waste molding. However, domestic foundries were not geared to this singular size output: their estimate of cost and delivery proved to be unaffordable or worse, just not possible.

The China Connection
DiPasquale was formerly a consultant for Evergreen Enterprises of Richmond, Virginia, a Chinese American owned company which also manufactured in Ningbo China. He had previously visited Ningbo with Vice President, James Xu. Xu was insistent that he could find a factory and foundry up to the budget and deadline task.

Three bidding factories produced a six foot clay model from the maquette and e mailed photos. DiPasquale chose the one who had the closest style and anatomical understanding to his Neptune and 25 workers began the full scale construction of the 80 ton clay Neptune.

The sculptor made 3 trips to Ningbo; the first to detail the six foot clay mid-model and supervise and instruct detailing of the full scale clay model. The second was to do the same with the animals and supervise the maquette casting and the third was to approve the full scale bronze casting and welding. In the end, it was necessary to rely on daily e mailed photos to approve the finished metal work.

Bigger Sculpture Bigger Problems
Although bigger was better for the site, the larger sculpture meant larger problems and meanwhile, the cost of copper doubled in 6 months. Zhang deemed Neptune “a worthy project of a lifetime” and built the armature and roughed in clay full scale model thicker, wider and an overly muscled Neptune. It all meant cost over-runs in China and for the assembly and installation in Virginia Beach.

DiPasquale was able to make the larger Neptune’s anatomy real to the betterment of presentation, but 30% more bronze at twice the cost meant Zhang could not afford to put any stainless steel structure (3 tons were needed) inside the 8 tons of bronze castings. It also meant DiPasquale had to hire an additional team to weld and finish the installation in the US.

Emailed pictures of the larger and finished full scale clay Neptune spoke to all involved and fortunately the contractors and engineers volunteering for the Neptune Festival were also motivated to increase their contributions of time and materials. The success of Neptune’s landing as a gift from the Festival to the city of Virginia Beach translated into success in fundraising and sales of the sculpture model editions. It means everything got paid for.

Two Documentaries have been made about the making and presentation of Neptune Virginia Beach:

The first, ‘The Making of Neptune’ was produced by Central Virginia’s Public Broadcasting production of ‘Virginia Currents.’

The second is Neptune: Making of the Myth produced by Paul Michels of Coastal Training Technologies. This 42 minute film won first place at the New York City Film Festival in the Educational Documentaries in 2007. It is available for purchase through the Neptune Festival.

About the Statue
Height to the crown - 26 feet
To the trident - 34 feet
Entire Weight - 12.5 tons
Dolphins (2) - 17 feet and 15 feet
Loggerhead Turtle - 11 feet nose to tail
Octopus - 8 feet (diameter)

About the Neptune Festival
The Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, enjoying its 34th year in 2007, was established as the end-summer gala to commemorate the city’s unique position as the “City by the Sea.” The Festival, produced by an independent non-profit corporation, is a way for residents and visiting friends to cap the summer season with a series of events along the oceanfront. With a cadre of 1500 dedicated volunteers, it takes a full year to plan and produce the Festival. Consistently commended as one of the top 20 Events in the Southeast and Top 100 Festivals in America, The Neptune Festival is the celebration by the Beach, for the Beach.

Virginia Beach Neptune Festival
265 Kings Grant Road
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452
(757) 498.0215

The Artist’s Intent
DiPasquale designed Neptune with the environment and accessibility in mind. It is a hands-on experience of reality and fantasy for children and adults about the wonders hidden beneath the waves. At the same time, the stern Neptune is not entirely pleased with the ecologically poor use of his seas. And his message, in bronze and stone, will carry on into the future.

It was also an opportunity for the sculptor to stretch classic Italian Renaissance sculpture into the 21st century. Trained in abstract constructivist and figurative sculpture, DiPasquale intends Neptune to attract his audience on an emotional and a formal level. His largest bronze work to date is also the largest bronze sculpture presented in Virginia since the Iwo Jima monument in 1945. Paul claims it as his greatest success, “It has exceeded my expectations as public art.”

For more information on this sculpture or others at this site, the sculptor can be e-mailed at