Mega-wealthy Wakatipu jeweller Sir Michael Hill has outdone himself this time.
Hill has spent a packet transporting to the Wakatipu a three-tonne cast-iron statue of a warrior and 110 larger-than-life wolf figurines formerly displayed in a public courtyard in China.
The famous The Wolves are Coming exhibition by a renowned Chinese sculptor now occupies pride of place in the run-up to the 18th hole on his private The Hills golf course near Arrowtown.
The extraordinary installation – officially unveiled today by Prime Minister John Key – is bound to be a talking point at the second New Zealand PGA Pro-Am golf tournament next February.
Asked if some people might find it quite weird, Hill admits: “It is weird.
“It’s going to be a challenge for golf, but also it’s part of the folly of The Hills in that we’re ending up with something that is not normal.”
The unveiling – doubling as the opening of The Hills’ sculptural park – comes two years after Hill stumbled across the installation during a visit to Beijing’s famous art district.
“It freaked me out when I saw them,” he says.
“It intrigued me that people were actually playing with the wolves. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have three or five of these.”
Hill eventually found an agent who introduced him to the installation’s sculptor Liu Ruowang but Hill wouldn’t buy even a few wolves as the price was far too high.
“I forgot about it and then about nine months later another agent got hold of me.
“It was quite an interesting experience and we were able to get them at a price with not a massive mark-up.”
Hill won’t disclose the price but admits: “We’re not talking minor money.”
The installation was shipped out in containers to Dunedin then trucked to The Hills.
The lone defending warrior had a container to himself: “They had to cut the top off the container to get his head through.”
Hill says his team prepared a clay base by the golf course entranceway but the sculptor objected to the site when he turned up last Sunday.
Through an interpreter, Ruowang repeatedly told Hill: “Site too small”, “not natural”, “wolves have to be starving, coming out of mountains, coming onto golf course, very hungry”.
An alternative sloping site by the 18th fairway was rapidly found.
Hill says he imagines some amateur golfers will have to hack their way out of the 200kg wolves’ new lair.
But not the professionals: “Unless it’s a very big duff, they will definitely not be there,” Hill says.