The Tarot Garden is located near the city of Capalbio, in the beautiful area of Maremma, Tuscany. This magic space was built by French artist Niki de Saint de Phalle and is full of huge, colorful sculptures, representing the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot cards.
The idea behind the Tarot Garden in Capalbio
This amazing Tarot Garden in Capalbio was the result of the artist’s wish to express her idea of a “small Eden where man and nature meet“, exactly the same philosophy behind the Catalan artist Gaudì. It is not a mistery that she took inspiration from the beautiful Park Guell by Gaudì in Barcellona, Spain. After coming back from her journey she chose a plot of land in the wild Maremma region, just a few kilometers from the city of Capalbio, and started her epic work.
Construction began in 1979, ending only in 1996: the Tarot garden in Capalbio was finally opened to the public two years later, on 15th May 1998. Building it cost more than 10 billion liras (the old italian coin, approximately 5 million euros) which the French artist completely self-financed.
When the works were finally over, Niki de Saint Phalle even founded “Tarot Garden Foundation”, whose primary aim is to keep the artist’s work intact and to finance any mantainance.
What’s inside the Tarot Garden and who built it
Niki de Saint Phalle felt that this garden had to represent the magic and spiritual garden of her dreams. She worked for almost 20 years to give life to the 22 huge sculptures: each of them has a steel soul, covered by concrete with ceramics, colored glass and mirrors.
She didn’t work alone, though. Se was helped by a team of professionals and from an equipe of famous contemporary artists, such as Rico Weber, Marino Karella, Paul Wiedmer, Pierre Marie and Isabelle Le Jeune, Sepp Imhof, Dok van Winsen, Alan Davie and even her husband, Jean Tinguely. He collaborated until his death, in 1991, to help her creating the enormous metallic structure which support the statues and also featured many of them with his “mécaniques”: he joined different moving iron elements to give life to the statues!
Niki was also joined by many of the best italian professionals in her adventurous creation: Riccardo Menon, friend and personal assistant of Niki, Venera Finocchiaro, a Roman ceramist, and architects Mario Botta and Roberto Aureli, who designed the pavillion which welcomes the visitors to the park. It is a thick wall, fencing the garden, with just one big circular opening in the middle, meaning to represent a sort of ideal boundary dividing the Tarot Garden from the outside world.
The 22 sculptures of the Tarot Garden: a comprehensive work of art
The 22 scultpures adorning the garden represent the personal artist’s view of the esoteric Tarot cards, one her main passions. The Empress is probably the sculpture which best represents the soul of the garden. Portrayed as a large woman-sphinx, this artwork was indeed chosen by the artist as her house for the whole time while she was working on the garden! Another tarot card, The Justice, inspired a work of art encasing a sculpture inside created by Jean Tinguely, which represents iniquity being imprisoned by a huge lock. And then the Tree of Life, with snakes as branches and a trunk covered by designs and texts created by the artist. Go on and discover The Devil, The Magician, The Sun, The Wheel of Fortune and all the cards of the Major Arcana.
Why visiting the Tarot Garden in Capalbio
The Tarot Garden is a magical place, a small Garden of Eden in Maremma, that really deserves a visit. Its strong connection between art and architecture really sets it apart from any other garden in Italy: the statues are of course a work of art, boasting a peculiar linguistic and figurative repertoir, but they also possess a dimension which is usually a feature of an architectural work. They have a human dimension, they can be walked into, explored and touched and are thus loved by the kids who visit the garden!