It’s many artists’ dream commission: do whatever you want, as large as you want, wherever you want. Just make sure it’s not “wimpy.” That’s the advice that Alan Gibbs, the founder of New Zealand sculpture park Gibbs Farm, gave Richard Serra when he invited Serra to create a piece for the farm. “If you’re going to do something here I want your best effort.”
Gibbs has spent the last two decades commissioning notable artists to work on the farm, collecting a menagerie of roughly two dozen pieces that he calls “a sanctuary for the senses.” The work is spread out on Gibbs’ 1,000-acre site, situated on the North Auckland coast within view of the largest harbor in the southern hemisphere.
There is a massive horn-like sculpture from Anish Kapoor, and a monumental stone pyramid from Sol Lewitt. One piece, Grief, is an exacting replica of an early Western town—saloon and all. Other work is more subtle: Daniel Buren built the park’s only fence, a 544-meter-long white picket fence that snakes through the landscape. Neil Dawson’s Horizons seems to be the crowd favorite: at 45 feet tall, the steel-framed pop-art outline of a napkin fluttering to earth is visible from much of the park.
Each piece is the result of a unique encounter between Gibbs, the artist, and the land, which can be intimidatingly dramatic. “It scares them initially,” he tells Rob Garett. “We particularly enjoy the challenge of making something that no one’s ever done before and solving the engineering problems to get there.” Gibbs kicks off each commission by inviting the prospective artist to come down for a visit on the farm. If all goes as planned, they’re invited to return and work for as long as they need. Many visit multiple times—Kapoor even brought his family along.
“We had no planning, we just did something when we found an artist we liked,” explains the 73-year-old entrepreneur. In his past life as a businessman, he became one of New Zealand’s wealthiest citizens, and blossomed into a patron of abstract expressionism and land art. He founded the farm in 1991. For Gibbs, it’s a chance to challenge artists to go beyond their comfort levels. “We push the limits,” he tells Garett. “No sane person would do what we’re doing.” Anyone is welcome to visit Gibbs’s sanctuary, as long as they call ahead. Appointments can be made on the website here.
[H/t It’s Nice That]