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Legendary Artist Paul Dibble Dies, Aged 80

Image courtesy of the artist and Gow Langsford Gallery.

“Paul was a great artist, and he was also a great friend. He was one of New Zealand’s finest sculptors, and he was also a very down-to-earth, warm, and good-humoured man. Paul’s art has enriched the lives of so many collectors and art lovers over the years, and he has left an exceptional legacy that will continue to be admired for decades to come. My thoughts are with his family at this time.”

- John Gow, Director Gow Langsford Gallery

Renowned New Zealand sculptor Paul Dibble has died. He was 80 years old. Dibble had been one of New Zealand’s foremost artists since the 1960s, with works held in a wide range of public and private collections throughout the country.

“Paul was a real pioneer of sculpture in this country. He worked on a scale and at a level of ambition that almost no one else has. He was with us from the very beginning at Gow Langsford and has been ever since. It’s hard to imagine the art scene without him.”

- Gary Langsford, Director Gow Langsford Gallery

Dibble was born in Waitakururu, near Thames, in 1943. He graduated from Elam in 1967 and went on to forge a remarkable career in sculpture. He created an extensive body of work over the decades. He built his own foundry in Palmerston North – the place he called home for many years. The foundry enabled him to cast his own large-scale artworks, a complex technical challenge that most artists would instead outsource to a commercial foundry. His wife, Fran Dibble, worked closely with him in running the foundry and casting the sculptures.

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Dibble’s major achievements include being commissioned to produce the New Zealand War Memorial in London, which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family at Hyde Park Corner in 2006. One year earlier, he was appointed to the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours. Paul never tired of making art. He was constantly adapting his work to encompass his expanding vision and his growing level of technical finesse.

“Paul was one of New Zealand’s greatest artists, though he was an understated character. He remained refreshingly humble, even when he became hugely successful and well-known. It has been a privilege to work with Paul and represent his work to our clients.”

- Anna Jackson, Director Gow Langsford Gallery

Native flora and fauna were key aspects of Dibble’s subject matter. This was exemplified by the work presented in his last exhibition with Auckland art dealer Gow Langsford Gallery in 2023. That exhibition was titled Huia Sings Alone, and it featured the extinct native bird and the flowers of the kowhai tree.

Image courtesy of the artist and Gow Langsford Gallery.

Gow Langsford has represented Dibble’s work since 1987 – the same year that the gallery started. He was a pillar of the gallery’s exhibition roster, showing work in more than 20 solo exhibitions and countless group shows over the years. Dibble continued to create magnificent sculptural works right up until the last few months of his life. Huia Sings Alone, was held in June and July of 2023, and in late 2023, he held a major show at Palmerston North’s public art gallery, Te Manawa. That show was titled Paul Dibble: Continuum.

His sculptures are held in public and private collections throughout the country and are widely admired by people from all walks of life. He also made many works for schools, which he thought were important places for landmarks and art in general.

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