Liz Light visits Gibbs Farm for art’s sake.
This vast sculptural rendition of a double-ended red megaphone blasts virtual announcements across the soft, shimmering waters of the also vast Kaipara Harbour. Is it acoustically interesting we wonder? Into one end I holler to my cousin, "Linda, I love you," and she can hear it loud and clear behind a hill 85m away, at the other end.
Gibbs Farm is a 400ha sculptural park of international renown and includes a designated zoo where exotic animals such as giraffe, buffalo, zebra, emu and alpaca roam. It's open to the public, once a month, for free.
It is unbelievable that Aucklanders have such world-class art on their doorstep and it costs nothing to see.
The red megaphone, called Dismemberment, is a sculptural creation of Anish Kapoor, presently a big name in world sculpture.
He also made the gigantic, curly red creation that stood tall behind the stadium at the Olympic Games in London. Yes, New Zealand had this big Kapoor three years before London. I try to list my favourites of the 23 or so amazing sculptures on Gibbs Farm and though the Kapoor is high on the list for its in-your-face size and redness, and the way it dwarfs the landscape as it straddles a hill, a piece simply called Arc on a complementary hill is gasp-worthy.
The Arc is the work of a French sculptor, Bernar Venet. Curved steel is his forte but this is his biggest creation and the one that sits perfectly in the landscape.
Eight enormous steel arcs, each 27m, stand on tiptoe and dance in an elegant group, bent backwards, it seems, by the near constant westerly wind that whisks across the Kaipara.
Part of its beauty is the engineering magic that allows it to be there. This great heavy creation, 100 tonnes of steel, seems to barely touch the ground.
Another favourite is the work of Christchurch man, Neil Dawson. Horizons looks like a curved piece of corrugated iron, from an old farm tank, that has sprung loose and blown in the wind to settle on this hilltop. It looks, from afar, light, almost frisky, and totally three-dimensional.
Up close it is one-dimensional and this is the wonder of it. Dawson is also famous for The Chalice in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, a piece of public art that many of us know and love.
It is a big farm and it takes at least four hours to wander around the sculpture trail. There are a couple of creations that are too esoteric, for me, and I don't see the point, but the majority are jaw-droppingly beautiful and perfectly placed in this well-groomed and bucolic coastal landscape.
This is truly a family day out. There is something for everyone at Gibbs Farm. Grown-ups enjoy art, the walk and the scenery and children play roly-poly down the hills and love the animals.
This is perhaps the only place in New Zealand where kids can stroke a giraffe — their fur is surprisingly course — and enjoy, emus, bison and alpacas.
At the end of the day I feel immense gratitude to Mr Gibbs. He is loaded with money (21st on the New Zealand rich list and worth $445 million) but what a generous way to spend it.
Gibbs Farm took 24 years to create, employs 28 people, and he has commissioned these artists, and paid them handsomely, allowing them to create their biggest and best works in this magnificent landscape. The farm belongs to him, as do all the artworks, but it won't go away and, through the open days, is an unforgettable gift to all of us.
The farm is 47km north of Auckland on State Highway 16. It has open days once a month and bookings are essential. Book through www.gibbsfarm.org.nz.