A few minutes’ drive from Matakana village lies Sculptureum, where three art-filled gardens, six galleries, a vineyard, a function centre and Rothko –the site’s restaurant and bar – flow over 25 acres.
Auckland–based lawyers Anthony and Sandra Grant have spent 12 years developing the project and longer still collecting the hundreds of works that fill it. Alongside the owners, Mark Rawlinson, Manager of Site Operations, has worked onsite for the last ten years, preparing the property for its public debut.
Anthony, who designed it all says, “the array of artistic creativity on display will hopefully amuse, inspire and stimulate people, and make their lives a little more interesting.”
The six galleries display contemporary works by some of the world’s best glass artists; works by Cezanne, Chagall, Rodin and others; animal sculptures by artists from all over the world; and contemporary works in plastic and other materials.
The jewel in the collection at Sculptureum is a large chandelier by the famous American glass artist Dale Chihuly. It is the most substantial work of glass art on public display in Australasia.
More than 150 exhibits and some 400 works fill The Garden of Creative Diversity, The Palm Garden and The Pink Snail Garden.
Some of the works are by local artists and many others are from overseas, such as the Cracking Art group’s famous supersized plastic animals in vibrant colours. Works are often juxtaposed to prompt curiosity and delight. A serious work might lie next to a Nike-wearing alligator, chasing frogs up a wall.
With a purpose not just to delight but also to inspire, Anthony has designed the gardens to
intellectually stimulate, with panels that display reflections on gardens, inspiration, wisdom, art and music. The most prominent of these is The Inspirational Garden where 23 panels of
quotations–currently from Steve Jobs and concerning motivation, commitment and personal
achievement–stand amongst two walls of wisteria and Plane trees, pleached tall and slim like those in the streets of central Paris.
The gardens burst with colourful plantings, designed to change with the seasons. Works on display start with imposing prehistoric rocks, whose patterns and shapes have been formed over millions of years. The winding paths then lead guests through a wide variety of contemporary works in glass, metal and other materials.
Sculptureum considers animals as living sculptures, with exotic birds living in five aviaries dotted across the property. Most are birds that many New Zealanders will not have seen before, including spectacular Red Golden Pheasants, Yellow Golden Pheasants, Lady Amherst Pheasants, colourful Gouldian Finches and Sun Conure Parakeets from the North East of South America. There are also large rabbits, housed in a grassy arena named Rabbiton, and turtles, their tanks positioned at eye height.
Guests at Sculptureum can enjoy a glass of wine or meal at Rothko, the site’s 80-seat restaurant. Head Chef Jarrod McGregor has created a seasonally focused menu that celebrates local produce and suppliers. Events and restaurant manager Julie Woodyear-Smith runs the function side of Sculptureum, which offers a striking event space for 100 seated or 180 standing guests, as well as extensive grounds for large marquees.
Stretching behind the gardens is a fertile vineyard, which produces Scuptureum’s highly applauded wine. The 2013 Bordeaux Blend (the Rodin Blend) was awarded a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge in London in 2015 and was the highest ranked Cabernet Franc dominant Bordeaux Blend in that competition. The Sculptureum Syrah was ranked in the top 40 of all of the Syrahs in that competition also.
Sculptureum is located at 40 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana.
The gardens and galleries are open from Thursday through Monday, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Rothko is open Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. http://www.sculptureum.nz