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Rare Tuatara Sculpture Attracts Wide Interest

August 19, 2019

A rare bronze sculpture of the animal known as New Zealand’s ‘living dinosaur’ is attracting wide interest before it goes under the hammer at a sale of collectable art in Auckland later this week.

Paul Dibble’s Who’s Afraid is a three-metre high sculpture of a Tuatara eying a 3.5 metre tall woman. Dibble completed two almost identical works of the Tuatara and the woman. One is outside the Regent on Broadway theatre in Palmerston North. The other will feature at an auction of Collectable Art at the International Art Centre in Parnell, Auckland, on Thursday (August 22) where it is expected to bring up to $28,000.

International Art Centre director Richard Thomson said the works may be unique.
“We don’t know of any other bronze sculptures of Tuatara and this one is really very striking. Everything about Tuataras is slow. They grow slowly, they reproduce slowly and are relatively slow movers. This sculpture of a Tuatara on a plinth as it eyes the woman, captures that slow pace of life in a remarkable way.” Mr Thomson said.

Tuatara are found only in New Zealand and for decades scientists around the world have been fascinated by its ancestral link to dinosaurs and its slow pace of life. Tuatara, Maori for ‘peaks on the back’ are the last survivors of an order of reptiles that thrived in the age of the dinosaurs.

Sculptor Paul Dibble, 76, was born in Thames and has lectured in art at the Palmerston North College of Education and at Massey University. The two institutions merged in 1996. His works are on display around New Zealand, including Te Papa in Wellington, the Te Manawa museum and art gallery in Palmerston North and the Christchurch Art Gallery. One of his most notable works is at The New Zealand War Memorial in London. Dibble and New Zealand architect, John Hardwick-Smith designed the memorial to New Zealand and United Kingdom war dead from World War I and World War II. The Southern Stand on the Piccadilly side of Hyde Park Corner, was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006
The auction of Collectable Art includes a wide range of art such as works by Don Binney, Nigel Brown, Pat Hanley, Colin McCahon, Dick Frizzell and Ralph Hotere.

A photograph of poet James K Baxter in Jerusalem is expected to bring up to $2500. An oil painting by Don Binney, A Cape for Father Damien II, is expected to bring up to $65,000, and a Colin McCahon oil painting, Sketch for TEAL, 1953, is expected to bring up to $85,000.


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