Hubert Phipps’ 30-foot stainless steel sculpture “Rocket” traveled over 8,000 miles to arrive as the new centerpiece at Boca Raton Innovation Campus, 5000 T-Rex Ave.
Inspired by the artist’s love of aerodynamic forms, the steel sculpture’s full-scale fabrication began in 2019 at the Tany Foundry in Hangzhou, China.
“You would never know looking at it all the challenges we had; it looks great,” he said.
“There were a couple of challenges,” said Phipps, who spent 35 years of his life as a Palm Beach County resident. “I was only relying on photographs…The other thing that was a little stressful was the length of time. I’ve had large objects ship before from mainland China, but this took a long time. I was told that was due to COVID because of the different ports of call. They had to put a new crew onto the vessel and they were having difficulty doing that due to COVID.”
In addition to the strains caused by the pandemic, the sculpture traveled across the Pacific Ocean to get to its current destination.
“It had a lot of stops,” Phipps said. “It went by truck from Hangzhou, China — where the shop is — then to Shanghai. It got put on a boat in Shanghai and then it was told to me that then it went to South Korea. Then it went back to the mainland of China at some port near Beijing. Then it might have gone to Japan.
“Then it crossed the Pacific through the Panama Canal to someplace in Mexico on the Caribbean side,” he said. “Two stops in Texas and it was off-loaded in New Orleans…It then got put on three different trucks and arrived in Boca Raton the day before the crane arrived.”
Crocker Partners, a commercial real estate business, aligned with the Boca Raton Museum of Art to add the sculpture to the campus art collection, making it the Boca Raton Innovation Campus’ landmark statement piece as part of a full-scale indoor and outdoor art museum.
“‘Rocket’ was conceived as that intersection between art and science and celebrates the heroics of modern engineering as also seen in Marcel Breuer’s building designed for IBM’s Research and Development Headquarters in 1970 (which is now the BRiC campus),” Irvin Lippman, the museum’s executive director, said in a statement.
“Breuer’s expressive concrete buttresses shape an architecture that appear to lift the building upwards from the ground. A great admirer of Marcel Breuer, Hubert brings us back full circle to the idea of forms levitating into space. The monumental ‘Rocket’ boldly captures that heroic lift-off with a sense of awe and wonderment. Its polished surface further enlivens the sculpture reflecting the sky, lawns, lights, and the people moving around the park, welcoming interaction with visitors — perfectly encapsulating the experience of art in public places.”
Located in an outdoor area, the sculpture is corrosive resistant and does well in subtropical and salty environments. “Rocket” will remain at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus for five years during the duration of the loan.
Phipps lives in Middleburg, Virginia and his pieces are part of permanent collections at the Coral Springs Museum of Art; Tufts University Art Galleries in Medford, Massachusetts.; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville; Boca Raton Museum of Art; Georgia Museum of Art in Athens; and the Flint Institute of Arts in Flint, Michigan.