I first saw Gibbs Farm about 8 years ago. I’d met up with some friends to photograph the waterfall at Omeru Falls and spotted on the horizon these impossibly huge sculptures – and is that a giraffe wandering around?
A quick search told me that they belonged to Alan Gibbs and were the largest large scale sculpture collection in New Zealand. The website gave more details of the 20+ sculptures of epic proportions and from that moment on I was hooked.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal owner Alan Gibb says “It’s not a public park. It’s not a charity. I’m happy to let people see it, but it’s still primarily a family holiday retreat.”
And so every month for one day he opens it up to artists, educational institutions, charities and the public and that – after years of trying to get one of those elusive tickets that always sell out – was how I found myself exploring Gibbs Farm on a sunny October day.
This is literally a money can’t buy experience and pretty epic that someone opens the doors to their house once a month for no benefit to themselves other than to share these amazing artworks (thanks Mr Gibbs!)
My own journey into art was a slow one. I started out in my teens wandering through the Auckland Art Gallery in between lectures but it wasn’t until I saw the white chairs in Christchurch that I understood the power of art to move you to tears and tell a story in a way nothing else could.
I’ve always tried to get my children to appreciate art, knowing that like me, you can’t create that moment that they will fall in love with it. So when I managed to get 2 tickets to explore it was always going to be one of the kids that I took with me. It’s hard with 3 kids when you only get to take one, but luckily this time they chose themselves and it was me and Kiki going together.
Kiki and I walked around the 1,000 acres, stopping regularly to take photos. As a budding photographer herself I love that Kiki never stops me when I regularly stop.
We also stopped for her to do cartwheels or roll down the many hills along the way – because hey, how often do you get to cartwheel through world renowned sculptures in a millionaires bark yard?
We talked as we walked over rolling hills, through sculptures whose scale can only be truly experienced in person and past the sheep, zebras, alpacas, buffalo and emus that call Gibbs Farm home.
We decided that we would read what the artists vision for each sculpture was but that we would also talk about what it meant to us.
We fell in love with all the man made lakes around the farm. One in particular of tiered lakes, all in different colours and all reflecting perfectly the sky above. “Pond dye” Kiki reckoned. I thought maybe plants or soil. Either way it was equally a work of art.
We marvelled at the Horizons sculpture which we quickly decided was our favourite. Even more so when we saw that this seemingly 3d sculpture was actually flat up close.
We talked a lot about what we would do if this was our backyard. We decided the games of hide and seek would be epic and that the sculpture by Anish Kapoor would make and excellent slide as well as a piece of art.
We talked about how our space and people around us gave the sculptures presence in a way that photos couldn’t. Without the scale of a person it was easy to minimise how huge these sculptures were in such generous surroundings.
We discovered, then discovered again when we found that the sculptures changed as we got closer to them or looked at them from different angles, or in conjunction with other sculptures. I’d love to see the farm at sunset – one of the staff there said it was magical.
We arrived at the Te Tuhirangi Contour – a 252 metre steel wall. Everyone was walking around I guess what you would call the front of it. I looked at Kiki and said what side should we go. The back way she said immediately which was my choice too.
It’s one of the things that I loved that how you view each piece wasn’t curated for you. You could choose the popular view, the unpopular one – any angle or way to view it that worked for you. I saw people laying under sculptures and I even saw a giraffe go up and give a cuddle to a giraffe sculpture.
It took us 4 hours to get around the park – ducking off the road that leads around the path to get better views. It was a day off school and a days annual leave as the farm isn’t open on weekends or public holidays but after so many years trying to get in I was taking any day I could get.
If you get the chance to visit this you incredible sculpture collection you should take it. Even if you don’t love art the sheer scale of the sculptors work and their imagination will blow your mind.
And again I say thanks to Alan Gibbs for sharing his private art collection and home with us.