A Reclusive Millionaire’s Vast Sculpture Park
“‘It’s hard to hide this place,’ says the art collector Alan Gibbs as he bounces in an open-topped Jeep through his vast contemporary sculpture park in rural New Zealand. ‘People see things from the road. That’s how it first got known.’ Only the site’s isolation has kept it a relative secret within the art world. Everything about its scale is gargantuan,” writes Tony Perrottet in an article for The Wall Street Journal.
“Across the 1,200-acre park, known simply as Gibbs Farm, the eye is drawn from one enormous coup de théâtre to the next: an 80-foot-high trumpet in lipstick red, towering columns of burnished steel, brilliant stainless-steel tubes that twist in the air like hairpins of the gods,” as reported in the article.
“The boldness of these colossal artworks matches the grandeur of their natural setting.” The Farm sprawls along Kaipara Harbour. “The park has been sculpted into voluptuous hills dotted with man-made lakes and open lawns of manicured kikuyu grass, resulting in a dreamlike interplay of art and nature. Some sculptures revolve in the wind; others catch the sunlight and burn incandescently at dusk.’” “Adding to this otherworldly atmosphere are exotic animals—yaks, zebras, alpacas, buffalo and emus—wandering among the park’s 30 sculptures.”
“I didn’t buy the Farm to make a sculpture park out of it. I bought it as a place to get out of Auckland for the weekend. I just wanted to get away somewhere and do ‘boy things,’” said Gibbs. These included sailing, helicoptering, shooting and driving his collection of vintage military vehicles.
“At 77, Gibbs still has the tall, powerful build of a rugby player and the irreverent sense of humor that many New Zealanders cultivate as a national sport,” writes Perrottet.
In Gibbs’ garage “is a Bond-like amphibious car, the four-wheel Aquada, built by company Gibbs Amphibians”, which now has 10 high-speed amphibious vehicle prototypes, including large Humdingas and Quadskis, a cross between a quad bike and a jet ski aimed at the leisure market,” as reported in the article.
“Growing up, I had no exposure at all to modern art,” said Gibbs. His “lifelong taste for abstraction and minimalism was born on a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 1963.”
After some false starts in business, he made his first modest fortune in real estate in Sydney in the early 1970s” and “his first million in 1981, shortly after he turned 40, from corporate takeovers.” “In the following decade he helped broker the privatization of state-owned companies in New Zealand against strong public opposition. He was soon one of the country’s richest individuals and most prominent art patrons.”
When asked about the future of the Farm Gibbs said: “My ideas on art are evolving all the time. Now I need to make a push. We’ve been averaging one commission a year, but we’re falling behind. I want to increase the pace.”
“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.” “While I’m alive, I’m going to keep on having fun with this place,” he adds. “I’ve never had plans. I’m not going to start making them now!”
Article Source: Wall Street Journal, Tony Perrottet, May 21, 2017