A magical day out at Gibbs Farm

Gibbs Farm, is an open-air sculpture park located in Kaipara Harbour and It contains the largest collection of large-scale outdoor sculptures in New Zealand. It is the private art collection of New Zealand businessman Alan Gibbs however, it is open to the public on select dates but much like gaining access Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory it ‘aint easy to get in! But after trying (and failing) to get tickets many times over the years, this time my numbers came in and the lottery was well and truly won on a beautiful Autumnal New Zealand day. I was in! Through the gates! And very, very excited.

After purchasing the 400 hectares of land for "The Farm" in 1991, Gibbs has collected major artworks by many world-renowned artists from New Zealand and overseas. Much of the artwork is commissioned and, as such, incorporates elements of the landscape into the artwork. The farm also includes several exotic animals such as zebras and giraffes, a garage where visitors can glimpse the Gibbs Aquada through the window, and a full-scale wild west town complete with a saloon (in the installation called Grief). 

Bonkers, and then some!

Gibbs Farm is an unusual setting for a sculpture collection. The North Auckland property is dominated by the Kaipara Harbour, the largest harbour in the Southern hemisphere. The harbour is so vast it occupies the whole western horizon; and it is very shallow, so when the tide goes out, the shallows are exposed for several kilometres and the light shimmies and bounces off it across the land. Equally, it is the forecourt to the prevailing westerly weather that sweeps, sometimes vehemently, across the land. Everything in the property flows towards and eventually into the sea; and every work contends in some way with the slide seaward. The flow of the land, the immense body of water, the wide harbour flats and the assertive variety of the elements have all imposed themselves on the artists. Gibbs acknowledges that “the challenge for the artists is the scale of the landscape; it scares them initially” and demands something more from them. Walking the land visitors can appreciate how each artist has come to terms in their own way with the gravitational pull that is exerted on everything as the mountains roll into hills and slide into gullies and slope down towards the wide flat expanse of the Kaipara harbour.

After nearly twenty years Gibbs Farm includes major works by Graham Bennett, Chris Booth, Daniel Buren, Bill Culbert, Neil Dawson, Marijke de Goey, Andy Goldsworthy, Ralph Hotere, Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt, Len Lye, Russell Moses, Peter Nicholls, Eric Orr, Tony Oursler, George Rickey, Peter Roche, Richard Serra, Kenneth Snelson, Richard Thompson, Leon van den Eijkel and Zhan Wang. Most works in the collection are commissioned; and commissioning new works rather than buying from an exhibition involves the satisfaction of dealing with the artists, as Gibbs comments “they’re interesting because they’re winners, tough, ambitious”.

I had the best day out at Gibbs Farm. If you get the chance to go, this really is a must visit magical wonderland.


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