Jane Adams discovers rolling verdant green farmland is the setting for an extraordinary private contemporary sculpture collection overlooking Kaipara Harbour, just north of Auckland.
New Zealand business magnate Alan Gibbs has been very low key about his passion – contemporary sculpture, a fascination dating back to the early 1990s when he bought his 400-hectare farm overlooking the expansive Kaipara Harbour. At Gibbs Farm, instead of stocking it like most graziers, with ruminant animals, he has chosen to rear one of the world’s great private sculpture parks.
Stroll its electrically fenced paddocks and you will marvel at the impressively scaled works specially site-commissioned from major artists, including minimalist American sculptor Richard Serra, creator of the curvaceous Te Tuhirangi Contour in Coreten steel. Anish Kapoor’s red steel and PVC oversize Swiss Alphorn inspired Dismemberment straddles a hill calling to the tidal estuary beyond. Other artists represented include Zhan Wang (China), Bernar Venet (France), Leon van den Eijkel (Holland) and NZ’s Neil Dawson and Jeff Thomson.
The notion of living art is best expressed by Thomson’s recently installed Giraffe standing triumphantly on a mound adjacent the giraffe house, where three very alive and hungry long-necked siblings are adjusting to their new Kiwi surroundings. All the other animals grazing the Gibbs Farm paddocks are real, and some decidedly quixotic – ostriches, water buffalo, Canadian geese, alpacas and big-horned Highland cattle. Sheep also gambol and graze this extraordinary, detour-worthy open-air sculpture park that will make your spirits soar.
Gibbs Farm is about an hour’s drive north of central Auckland. It is open to the public by appointment once a month on scheduled dates (10am – 2pm), free entry. There is no on-site café so visitors are recommended to wear sensible shoes, dress for the weather and pack a picnic.