Various sculpture parks in the world are most often the result of the efforts of a certain foundation or a specific collector. These theme parks, so to speak, represent an extended version of the imperial gardens that combined architecture and botany to form a public place for social gatherings, admiration, and leisure time.
Reasonably, with the flow of time, the art changed and along with it the interest in it. In the late 1960s and 1970s, a new generation of artists started experimenting with the very notion of sculpture as a medium, and the works produced at that time were categorized with phrase sculpture in the expanded field coined by the art historian Rosalind Krauss, although they fit also to a broader comprehension of land art.
Not many people showed interest in collecting these expansive artworks, produced in regards to the land, as their specifics largely depended on a team of engineers, architects and urban planners, not to mention the outer conditions. However, one man decided to commission some of these unprecedented works after purchasing a one-thousand-acres parcel in Kaipara Harbour, 47 kilometers north of Auckland, New Zealand in 1991. His name is Alan Gibbs, a wealthy businessman who was already an avid collector before he launched his private sculpture park called the Gibbs Farm.
As said, the vast property of Gibbs Farm is located near the Kaipara Harbour, the largest harbor in the Southern hemisphere, which reveals itself in its beauty when the tide happens and the sea shallows are visible for several kilometers. Saturated with natural light and relatively easy climate, the Gibbs Farm allows each work to stand out.
This particular setting is rather challenging, but it inspires the artists to rethink their visions and adjust them accordingly to the site. What is so captivating with the whole estate is that each visitor can enjoy the way the whole constellation corresponds demographically with the nearby mountains, hills, and gullies.
Alongside the sculptures by numerous critically acclaimed artists from New Zealand and abroad, the farm is also home to exotic animals such as emus and giraffes, as well as a garage where visitors can observe the Gibbs Aquada, a high-speed amphibious vehicle, through the window, and the installation called Grief, erected by Gibbs' architect and son-in-law, Noel Lane.
Among the artworks on view at Gibbs Farm, the visitors can see a grand-scale work Te Tuhirangi Contour by Richard Serra that spreads in concave and convex form throughout the vast landscape; Tony Oursler’s haunting Mud Opera; Green and White Fence by Daniel Buren consisting of repetitive green and white pillars; Kenneth Snelson’s broken constellation made of iron rods that defy gravity titled Easy.
There is a grand horn-like structure by Anish Kapoor called Dismemberment, Site 1, that bridges the inland and coastal parts of the farm.
The works such as Kaipara Waka by Russell Moses and Andy Goldsworthy’s Arches are practically immersed in the terrain and act as some gates while reflecting the artist's interest in the exploration of the beyond.
On the other hand, the works such as The Mermaid by Marijke de Goey and Graham Bennett’s Sea / Sky Kaipara defy the constraints of physicality as they seem to drift in the air or flow seawards. Following a similar idea, George Rickey made two kinetic works that rely on weightlessness, while the works of Eric Orr (interestingly so, his sculpture is based on the world's largest Tesla coil), Bill Culbert, and Peter Roche float free while pulsating with color and light.
On display are also the works made in the last two decades by Sol LeWitt, Graham Bennett, Chris Booth, Neil Dawson, Ralph Hotere, Len Lye, Peter Nicholls, Richard Thompson, Leon van den Eijkel, and Zhan Wang.
Gibbs Farm has always been exposed to numerous technical problems as building some of the works was a task of conquering an entirely unknown territory. This was ultimately solved in close collaboration with the architect Noel Lane (who continued working with Anish Kapoor on his subsequent works in London) and a highly skilled team of engineers.
Throughout the years, it turned out that the wealthy businessmen engaged quite an effort to commission and construct major site-specific works and as a result, he managed to create an exceptional and rare permanent collection of outdoor sculptures. This particular approach made him one of the very few figures in the contemporary art world who truly understands the artist’s aims and the demands required for the realization of their ideas.
This remarkable site is best experienced by foot as the visitors can plunge into the interaction between the terrain and the works positioned smoothly one after another. Gibbs Farm is open for the public on specific days throughout the year, most often once per month. The visits have to be booked upfront, and the entrance is free of charge.
Featured images: Artworks at Gibbs Farm: Anish Kapoor - Dismemberment, Site 1, Image via creative commons; Neil Dawson - Horizons, Photo by Nita via Flickr; Richard Serra - Te Tuhirangi Contour, Photo by Robin Capper via Flickr.