A visit to Gibbs Farm on Friday 13 February was day one of the combined Wellington Sculpture Trust and Friends of Te Papa Sculpture Tour to Auckland. For some it was their second or third visit to the Farm, but for the two of us and many others, it was our first. Altogether there were about 170 sculpture enthusiasts on this visit, travelling in arranged buses from Auckland or by private car. The journey from Auckland to Kaipara Harbour and the Farm took about an hour. It was a beautiful day.
Our first and quite overwhelming impression of Gibbs Farm was of the great rolling slopes of glorious green grass, interspersed with strategically planted trees and huge, varied sculptures. The grass was beautifully mown, lush and plush. The landscape, contoured over the years, rolled across ridges and gullies, with small lakes in strategic areas. This was indeed a farm with a difference. It is hard to believe that when Alan Gibbs purchased the land in 1991, it was covered in pine trees.
We were given a small booklet with a map and brief details of the nineteen sculptures, then wandered at will, discovering each work in its own setting. We marvelled at so many sensational pieces: Marijke de Goey’s elegant lakeside Tango Dancers; Sol LeWitt’s deceptively simple Pyramid on a gently sloping hillside; three standout works perched on hilltops between land and sky – the ethereal Horizons by Neil Dawson, Anish Kapoor’s ever-changing Dismemberment, Site 1 and the vertically challenging 88.5 ARCx8 of Bernar Venet; plus, on the edge of the Kaipara Harbour, Andy Goldsworthy’s striking Roman-influenced Arches; to mention just a few… The various artists had all chosen their site and designed their sculpture for that specific position. The results were awe-inspiring, beautiful, challenging and thought-provoking.
The Wellington Sculpture Trust had arranged a picnic lunch, complete with wine and fruit juice, and we all sat around, in the sun, under the shady trees or in some of the adjoining buildings adjacent to The Barn. The Barn was the first structure that Alan Gibbs built on the land, deliberately with no straight edges and with rough-cut timber. It grew over the years and now houses his various amphibious cars, an auditorium and toilet facilities for visitors to Gibbs Farm. At the end of the lunch period, Alan Gibbs gave a relaxed and informal overview of the inception and growth of his sculpture farm and was happy to answer many questions. We all then dispersed to finish our ‘tour’ of these art works.
This was a wonderful day and a memorable experience – definitely an exciting start to a weekend of sculpture.
Jillian Wellings and Jan Blayney
Committee, Friends of Te Papa