New Zealand boasts some incredible collections of art in some stunning locations.
From grand-scale art in parks to making movie magic, New Zealand can offer visitors a range of exclusive artistic and cultural experiences – from highbrow to just plain wow. With companies offering tours with a fine art focus, or boutique accommodation set within sculpture parks, you’ll find all manner of upmarket art experiences in Aotearoa.
Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Auckland
Wrapped around the ever-changing Kaipara Harbour, this lavish private collection of outdoor art includes major works by Ralph Hotere, Chris Booth and Anish Kapoor, all assembled by philanthropist art patron Alan Gibbs. You’ll need at least three hours to do Gibbs Farm and its artworks any sort of justice. This 405ha folly features rolling green hills sliding down to the sea, and sheep, yaks, buffaloes and giraffes live among the art. The unique art experience is closed in winter. And be prepared: there’s a lot of ground to cover, but not a lot of shelter.
The Park is 40 minutes’ drive north of Auckland. It’s available to view by prior appointment only (you can book ahead for the monthly open days), and you’ll need good walking shoes, food and drink. Planning well ahead is essential. Popular nearby attractions include Parakai Springs Hot Pools and Kaipara Cruises, as well as the quaint town of Helensville with its railway museum and Regent Cinema second-hand shop. The fabulous Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens is an easier-to-access option if Gibbs Farm proves too tricky.
Connells Bay Sculpture Park, Waiheke Island
A happy marriage of art, nature and scenery, this Waiheke Island wonderland features a range of charming spaces with sculptures created with the site in mind. With permanent and short-term sculptures on display, you will delight at the works – and the beautiful location. You’ll also be thrilled to learn there is a cottage available to rent – a beautifully appointed, historic two-bedroom guesthouse. John and Jo Gow – long renowned for their generous support of the arts – are the philanthropic local couple behind this magnificent labour of love.
Dreamy Waiheke Island is 40 minutes from downtown Auckland by ferry (faster by helicopter or sea plane) with the many attractions vying for your attention including a variety of vineyards, restaurants and cafés, electric bike hire, zip-lining, kayak tours, walks and some gorgeous beaches where you can peacefully while away the hours.
Matakana’s Sculptureum, Auckland
The freshly minted Sculptureum in Matakana might be a newcomer to the art scene, but it is home to an outstandingly impressive private collection. You’ll find the works of Cézanne, Chagall and Rodin on display. When owners Anthony and Sandra Grant opened their property to the public, they described it as “art entertainment”. With three sculpture gardens and six galleries to browse around, you’ll be glad to know there’s also Rothko, a restaurant and bar that’s the perfect environment for refuelling and reflecting.
Matakana village is close enough to Auckland to be accessible yet far enough away to feel removed from city life. There’s a popular farmers’ market on Saturday mornings and artisan shops. Several beautiful beaches are nearby. Bike and surfboard hire are available, as is the delicious homemade ice-cream at Oob Organic Berries.
Bespoke Fine Art Tours, Auckland & Wellington
If you’re not sure what art or cultural experience is best for you, why not ask Fine Art Tours (in Auckland or Wellington) to create a tailor-made art itinerary? Whether your interests are in contemporary art, fashion, performing arts, gardens, local history, hands-on workshops or wine and food – a bespoke tour (designed with small groups in mind) can be arranged to fit your time and tastes. As well as access to some phenomenal private collections, Fine Art Tours offers an impressive range of guides, with a pool that includes academics, art historians and culinary connoisseurs.
Visitors to Auckland or Wellington should make time to explore the museums in both cities – the waterside Te Papa in Wellington and the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the garden surrounds of the Domain. The Auckland Art Gallery and City Gallery Wellington are also world-class and not to be missed.
Hands-on at Weta Workshop, Wellington
The home of New Zealand movie-making magic, Weta Workshop is director Sir Peter Jackson’s special-effects and props company in the Wellington seaside suburb of Miramar. The workshop tours are open to the public, giving film fans a behind-the-scenes look at the SFX techniques and gadgetry used on some of the world’s best-loved films, including The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Thunderbirds Are Go. This may just whet your appetite, which is where the “hands-on” workshops come in. Tutorials on everything from creating fake blood to making chainmaille will fascinate, stimulate and inspire.
The suburb of Miramar has come into its own since Sir Peter arrived and offers a range of delicious eateries – plus the Art Deco splendour of the Roxy Cinema. It’s also a popular bike-riding destination – explore Scorching, Shelly and Karaka Bays on two wheels if you’re after a little seaside action. The Massey Memorial (a 10-minute walk from Shelly Bay Road) is the spot for panoramic views.