Gibb's Farm Sculpture Park, New Zealand

In 2014 I took the the opportunity to join a small touring group organised by Sculpture by the Sea, to spend a day visiting the renowned privately owned sculpture park, 'Gibb's Farm' on Kaipara Harbour, just north of Auckland, New Zealand. Commissioned by owner Alan Gibbs, here are major site-specific works by world-renowned key artists including Richard Serra, Neil Dawson, Bernar Venet, Andy Goldsworthy, Marikje de Goey and Anish Kapoor. This is a landscape of vast scale against a vast harbour - all land and sea and sky - and the works are of an exciting, daunting scale.

This is a view down a valley to the lake, with works by Kenneth Snelson (“Easy K’) and Marijke de Goey (‘Tango Dancers’ and ‘The Mermaid’)

Dismemberment, Site 1 by Anish Kapoor

Mild steel tube and tensioned fabric.

West end 25m x 8m, East end 8m x 25m. Length 85m

Wow! Nothing quite prepares you for this one! Gibbs and his engineers parted hills, created a narrow cleft, and the work nestles down between. Like a giant Horn of Gondor, it seems to suck breath into its narrow opening in the east, and then sing it out in a long-held note to the west.

Strong and taut, yet strangely fleshy. It is red, Red! Its redness is an integral element, evoking moisture and bodily openings; impossible to imagine it in any other colour.

Red Cloud Confrontation in Landscape by Leon van den Eijkel

25 cast form and painted concrete cubes, each 17.5m x 17.5m

Born in the Northern Hemisphere, van den Eijkel immersed himself in the different light he found in New Zealand, and has recreated these ‘Pacific colours’ in this work. The sides of the cubes are painted in the red, yellow, blue and black of Mondrian, while the colours of the tops seem to float like the ‘small clouds of early morning’ of his adopted land.

'Wind Wand' by Len Lye

Red fibreglass tube 45m x 200mm

Born in New Zealand, an experimental film maker, writer and kinetic artist, Lye believed that motion was part of the language of art. He designed works beyond structural possibilities in his lifetime, but are now able to be realised because of modern technology. This supple, flexible wand waves and bends in the wind, the red light on its top a moving dot in the night sky. On a powerfully windy night, the wand flexed so far, its light seemed almost to touch the earth.

‘Te Tuhirangi Contour’ by Richard Serra

56 Corten Steel plates, 252m x 6m x 50mm

Tracing a single contour line across the landscape, this strong, rusty line of steel seems to float and bend to an inner rhythm. We leant against it, feeling the warmth it had absorbed from the sun, ran our fingers along its mottled surface. It towered above us, seeming full of a latent power.

I had experienced Serra’s works in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. There, they leant in, enclosing you in a circular embrace. There were several of them, filling the vast exhibition space, and going from one to the other felt like being in a curving, flowing labyrinth. His work to me seems primal, strong, protective, with a deep respect for the properties and possibilities of his medium – steel.

’88.5deg. ARC x8’ by Bernar Venet

Corten steel, 8 arcs each 27m x 0.75m x 0.75m

Another sculptor who sees the architectural/sculptural possibilities of steel, Venet plays with arcs in his work , arranging them in all sorts of configurations. Here, at Gibb’s Farm, they are sited atop a hill, arcing skywards. Their orange-gold surface contrasts vividly with the intense green of the surrounding grassland,

Dwarfed by them, I feel a tension between the vaulting desire to lift off free into the sky, and the downward pull of the imagined descending arc.

‘Arches’ by Andy Goldsworthy

Pink Leadhill sandstone blocks stacked into 11 freestanding arches

Each block 1.4m square, each arch 7m long

The stone was quarried in Scotland near Goldsworthy’s ancestral beginnings, and now seems to head out into the bay like some ancient Roman ruin. At high tide, it probably evokes the Loch Ness monster, but now seems stranded, left behind by human history. I like the way it marries the land to the sea, and to the horizon.

These are just a few of the works I saw in our day at Gibb’s Farm. It is such a vast area, there were works we didn’t get to see. I think what impressed me most was the way each artist had risen to the enormous challenge of creating a work that had presence in its site, and was not overpowered by the landscape. Each work became a collaboration between the artist who imagined and designed the sculpture, and the brilliant expertise of Project Manager / Engineer Peter Boardman who managed the installation of the works – no easy feat.

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