Gibbs Farm – a treasure that has slipped under the radar
When a friend invited me to visit Gibbs Farm for the day I graciously accepted but had to sneak away and do a little research to find out what I had let myself in for.
But no amount of research would have prepared me for the magnificence of this collection of sculptures, known as Gibbs Farm.
Thinking a day on the farm, with fences to climb and cow pads to avoid we ditched our urban attire for gumboots and walking gear, but how wrong were we.
It is definitely a farm, but a different sort of farm. The animals are exotic, the terrain is rolling and manicured, with 25 unusual mammoth sculptures, dominating this surreal and isolated landscape.
Alan Gibbs, a successful New Zealand businessman, and his wife Jenny, have collected art for several decades. In 1991, they bought 1,000 acres on the Kaipera Harbor, 50 kilometers from Auckland, now home to one of the finest sculpture collections the world.
Many of the 25 sculptures were commissioned as site -specific works from artist around the world including several New Zealanders. Gibbs tries to collect a sculpture a year although some have taken three to fives years to develop, with many built on the property.
From the car park we could see several of the sculptures. I love modern art but honestly, I don’t always get it but these works are on such a grand scale they are impressive without having to understand them. But to guide our thinking, we were given a very useful booklet with a thumbnail description of the works and thoughts of the artist.
The first to take my eye was the work of a Beijing born sculpture, Zhan Wang – Floating Islands of Immortals. This stainless steel sculpture, in a pond, is inspired by the monumental office blocks in Beijing and the feng shui landscape gardening traditions. Floating in the pond, it’s reflection was as stunning as the sculpture itself.
Horizon, the spectacular works of New Zealand born Neil Dawson was one of the earliest sculptures to be commissioned. Sitting on one of the highest points on the property it is made from welded and painted steel and is suggestive of a giant piece of corrugated iron that might have blown in from a collapsed water tank on some distant farm, resting precariously until the next gale lifts it into the air again.
Up and over the hill we walked to get our first glimpse of what looks like a huge opening of a red horn, Dismemberment, Site 1. The PVC horn is stretched between two giant steel ellipses and is described by the Indian artist, Anish Kapors, as “ rather like a flayed skin”. I didn’t make the connection with the fleshy quality as the PVC is pulled very taunt but never the less it was impressive.
Knowing there were giraffes on the property, one of our group declared she had seen one in the distance but as we got closer the giraffe was the work of Jeff Thomspon, Giraffe – a beautiful sculpture depicting a generic giraffe with all characteristics of six types of giraffes found in the wild. But alongside this sculpture are the real thing- three magnificent specimens from Africa.
Our leisurely walk around the farm took us about three hours and no amount of words can describe the force and dominance of this art collection in this supremely beautiful location. Ending our walk we settled down to a scrumptious picnic under the trees.
The Gibbs Farm Gibbs Farm is a private property and has recently opened monthly by prior appointment to artists, educational institutions, charities and the public. It is essential to apply online, as numbers are limited. For further information and visiting dates view http://www.gibbsfarm.org.nz