Fields of dreams
A property near Auckland is home to an amazing collection of sculpture
ROBERT Garrett, an independent art curator, announces: ‘‘There’s a storm coming from the northeast and possibly one from the west; it could get very windy and chilly and you may need your gumboots.’’
We are on our way to Gibbs Farm sculpture collection and Garrett is our guide. Onthe hour-long journey northwest from central Auckland to the locked farm gates on the edge of Kaipara Harbour, Garrett gives us the lowdown on the 26 world-class sculptures in the collection.
The works have been ‘ ‘ bought off the shelf’’ or commissioned by engineer Alan Gibbs over the past 20 years. Gibbs’s business interests include the design and production of amphibious craft.
All visits here must be pre-arranged on designated open days and, at our appointed time, the gates are opened and we drive down the track. One wow moment follows another with such quick succession that I’d like the planet, or maybe just the bus, to slow down a bit.
Large-scale sculptural works are carefully positioned at vantage points on lakes or the rolling green paddocks that run down to the harbour on the 400ha property. I can only compare the experience with spying a big cat on safari in Kenya — surprise, delight and a feeling of great good fortune.
On the coach, Garrett has told us that Gibbs landscaped the landscape and we now see what this means. The neighbouring farms have scrubby vegetation. On Gibbs Farm, the indigenous trees have mostly been axed and the grass manicured by tractor-driven lawnmowers. Landscaping goes beyond attention to greenery. Lakes have been created and mountains moved — well, hills reformed to specifications that enhance the artworks.
The bus stops at the newest addition to the collection, by US artist Maya Lin. I don’t immediately register that the five large grass-covered mounds I’m looking at are, in fact, Lin’s work. It is called A Fold In The Field, comprising 105,000 cubic metres of earth, covering 3ha and standing up to 11m. It is only by climbing the creations and viewing from various angles that the artistry is truly revealed.
Down on the tidal flats are 11 arches formed with bricks made from red Scottish sandstone. This is the work of Andy Goldsworthy; they are situated askew and in their watery site make me think of the magical Nessie in her Scottish loch. Garrett says they hark back to Roman times in the way they have been constructed and asks us to imagine the work a hundred years on.
Weare told that many artists have been intimidated by this landscape; most have created works of a scale not previously attempted.
Richard Serra’s Te Tuhirangi Contour and Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment, Site 1 do battle for Gibbs Farm’s most extraordinary work. The competition is fierce. Serra’s contour, made of 6m-high sections of steel placed at an angle of 11 degrees to the contour of the land, is a feat of engineering. Standing beneath it and looking up at clouds passing, you could be on a moving ship. It is forged, masculine and dominant but such is its elegance, it also looks like a gently unfurled ribbon.
Kapoor has said that artists make mythologies and it is true of this work. It breathes. Made of PVC membrane and moved by the wind, it is alive and shaped as if to make music; it certainly plays with your heartstrings.
All the fresh air and walking helps us make light work of our picnic lunch. Almost disappointingly, the threatening storms hold off. It would be great to return one day to witness the drama of nature competing with art. Helen McKenzie was a guest of the 2013 Auckland Art Fair.
Large-scale sculptural works are carefully positioned at vantage points on Gibbs Farm