Iconoclastic multimillionaire Felix Dennis has amassed one of the largest and most personal collections of figurative sculpture in the world in his Garden of Heroes and Villains.
Dennis began his career creating and fighting for the radical counterculture magazine Oz and became one of the preeminent periodical publishers in the world, rabble-rousing all the way. Famously uttering “cunt” on live television in 1970, and drunkenly claiming to have killed a man during a 2008 interview, Dennis’ more outrageous outbursts belie his work as a passionate artist and environmentalist.
Dennis has planted over a million trees in his private Heart of England Forest, which he hopes to establish as a permanent wooded area that will one day be opened to the public when it is strong enough to survive their incursion. At the age of 52 Dennis began writing poetry which has received critical acclaim and garnered him the appellation, the “millionaire poet.” With such a rich life devoted to art and statement, it is no wonder that Dennis’ personal art garden is a wide-ranging collection of odes to his shaggy dog inspirations.
Consisting almost exclusively of figurative sculptures, the Garden of Heroes and Villains is spread across Dennis’ property like a trail of muses. Portrayed in over 50 life-size bronze statues are characters both real and fictional that the rich poet personally commissioned as each subject revealed their importance to him. Here a cartoonish representation of writer and critic Samuel Johnson is captured in full, apoplectic stride, there a life-like Stephen Hawking ponders the universe. From Billie Holiday and Robert Crumb to his fellow defendants at the Oz magazine obscenity trials and King Kong, Dennis’ garden is a remarkably personal and staggeringly beautiful monument to the publisher-poet-activist’s life of unceasing fascination.
The Garden of Heroes and Villains is located on Dennis’ private estate, but it is opened to the public once a year during the National Gardens Scheme charity event.