You’re right in thinking a farm should have green grass—there is plenty of that at Gibbs Farm, but there is so much more. The 1,000 acre farm on the Kaipara Harbour, the largest harbour in the southern hemisphere, is just 50 kilometres north west from Auckland. The isolated terrain is rolling, the grass is manicured, and the harbour is so vast it occupies the whole western horizon of the property.
But aside from the location and beauty of this land, what makes the property unique are 25 mammoth sculptures. Gibbs Farm has one of the finest sculpture collections in the world. Successful New Zealand businessman Alan Gibbs, along with his wife Jenny, have collected art for several decades. But their collection took a turn in 1991, when they purchased the farm and started collecting large sculptures.
What to See
The nature of the rugged land on the Kaipara Harbour and prevailing westerly winds can create challenges for artists, so Gibb’s preference is to commission artists to produce site-specific works. He aims to collect a sculpture each year, although some have taken three to five years to create, with many built on-location.
Gibbs has commissioned artists from around the world, including New Zealander Neil Dawson. Dawson produced one of the farm’s earliest sculptures, ‘Horizon’. It sits on one of the highest points on the property and is made from welded and painted steel. This unique sculpture is suggestive of a large piece of corrugated iron that might have blown off a collapsed water tank on some distant farm, resting precariously until the next gale lifts it into the air again.
To keep the sculptures interesting, Gibbs mixes the real with the surreal. When it comes to farming in New Zealand, sheep and cattle are the norm, but to off-set artist Jeff Thomson’s six metre, majestic sculpture of a giraffe, Gibbs has three live giraffes from Africa roaming alongside it. There are even several light-based sculptures, such as Peter Roche’s ‘Saddleblaze’. Bright red LEDs are attached to tree trunks, creating a forest that’s aglow with what look like red embers at first glance.
Graham Bennett, also a New Zealander, has created a geometric and repetitive sculpture for Gibbs Farm. It’s a marked contrast to the organic contours of the site, but its surfaces mean that in certain lights the work almost disappears against the sky, and at other times it appears to have the translucent qualities of the Kaipara Harbour’s watery surfaces and estuary.
No matter your taste in art or design, Gibbs Farm is a delightfully unique location in New Zealand. Though this location may not be well-known, its many surprises certainly make it worth the trip.