One of my favourite places to visit in the whole of Italy is the Giardino dei Tarocchi created by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), begun in 1978. I cried when I visited this place on my birthday weekend a few years ago. I love places that display stunning examples of pure imagination and colour in strong decisive ways and, on top of that, if they embody a message of some sort, it makes me tingle with emotion.
The garden is located in southern Tuscany, inland, in the middle of the olive groves. Friends of the artist gave her some land from their estate near the delightful town of Capalbio, at Garavicchio, in order to create her outdoor sculpture garden inspired by the representations of the individual tarot cards. She began the twenty-two monumental sculptures in 1978-9, a project that was to last nearly two decades and they were finished in 1996. The idea for such a space was born in 1955 when she visited the Park Guell by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) in Barcelona.
She gathered a team of visual artists and technicians to help build the sculpture armatures from welded steel bars covered in cement and decorated with glass, painted ceramic and mirrors. These enormous coloured creations are often big enough to walk into. Moving from one sculpture to the next, in the serenity of the olive grove studded countryside, is a wonderful sensation. Each creation is different and original, however it is possible to sense the common stylistic influences running through all of her work; the multi-media use and style of Gaudi, the ingenious use of colour present in Venetian art and mosaic work and the magic of that city’s architecture, and the Romanesque period with the fantastical imagination found in the stonework and decoration of the buildings. For me, this is a slice of heaven on earth and an enchanting addition to a fabulous weekend away discovering the delights of the surrounding area.
Open: 2.30 – 7.30 pm, April 1 – October 15