Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden
Picture an unusual and colorful artistic park, like an alien built citadel in the center of a tranquil landscape scorched by the sun, amidst sheaves of straw and country-chic roads and farmhouses which can be glimpsed beyond the thick borders of olive and myrtle trees. We are located in the richest part of Maremma, in Capalbio, the retreat of aristocrats and old money intellectuals, managers and financiers and heirs. In 1979, a renowned pair of artists, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely, were granted by the illustrious owners of the large agricultural estate of Garavicchio, brothers Carlo and Nicola Caracciolo, two hectares of land to create Niki’s monumental and extravagant fantasies. So began the project to design the Tarot Garden, right in the middle of farmland, on a hill with a view of the sea. The inspiration came to Niki de Saint Phalle after having visited the Parque Guell in Barcelona, work of Antoni Gaudí, and the Park of Monsters in Bomarzo, established in the 16th century by Pier Francesco Orsini. We should add that the French-American artist, upon creating this kingdom of eccentricity, was by then famous for her bizarre obese statues, the Nana. With her husband’s collaboration, who complemented her creations with his mechanics, the self-propelled sculptures which have made him famous, and supported by a team of excellent artisans and fellow artists, their dream came true. After seventeen years of work and a budget of approximately 8 million Swiss francs (financed by the artist), the Tarot Garden was finally inaugurated in 1998, with its twenty two creatures constructed in steel, cement, glass, mirrors, and garish Majolica glazed ceramic tiles. Swiss architect Mario Botta finished the park with a wall of tuff at the entrance which acts as a detachment, before dropping from everyday reality into a «magical pause», as Niki de Saint Phalle defined it. Each one of us, behind that wall, is transformed into a real Alice in Wonderland, free to imagine oneself as the subject of strange adventures, in a space-time corner where the houses are shaped like the arcanes of the tarot, the Papessa, the Mago, the Sole, the Papa. The Wheel of Fortune, created by Tinguely, is positioned next to generous and maternal female figures, referring to the fantasies stemming from the «physical and psychic ordeal» of de Saint Phalle, who was abused by her father when she was 11 years old. She tells this story in her memoir called Mon secret, which she beautifully illustrated and published in 1994. Her art is a form of exaggeration of the secret kept for too long by the beautiful, ethereal, noble daughter of a failed banker, who grew up between France and the United States. For example, Hon/Elle, a large multicoloured female figure designed in 1966 for the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. A giant reclining pregnant woman, «therapeutic», as the artist called many of her works. Made with polyester, 28 meters long (and 6 meters high, 9 meters wide), its visitors were allowed to explore it, entering and exiting the vagina of the female corpse. You can imagine the scandal, despite the fact that we were in Sweden and not in Vatican City. Maybe, for the very reason of what she was subjected to as a child, and also for subsequent feminist and environmentalist choices at the time everything else but expected, Niki de Saint Phalle and her Tarot Garden were recommended to the Ferragnez (the Chiara Ferragni-Fedez couple ), who were looking for an experience in what Freud called «Unheimliche», the uncanny, and in fact have been engaged for some time now in repositioning their image. Having become wealthy and mature, a middle-class couple with children, they wanted to show that they do not limit their business to simply sponsoring underwear, accessories and luxury hotels, but lend their image to encourage social campaigns for the benefit of inclusion and also to foster the education of their followers, relying on them to visit exhibitions and museums. At the beginning of May, after having contacted the management of the Tarot Garden and negotiating the conditions of the visit, the Ferragnez family and associates descended upon the garden, which was closed to the public, and then rushed to take countless selfies, photographs and movies amidst the bright colors of the majolica and the reflection of the mosaic of mirrored tiles, with Ferragni very kind and willing to take selfies next to any fans, and Fedez rather in the part of the grumpy revolutionary (the class struggle of the suburbs of Milan versus the kingdom of rural chic).Together with their son Leone, already a celebrity, he is the protagonist of many sketches of the brilliant Crozza (renamed Leonez by him). Later, just as they came, the Ferragnez group vanished, taking away the flurry of clicks generated by cell phones, but also generating a seismic swarm on social media, which recorded in a few hours the explosive growth of likes and comments (some on the garden, others on the clothes worn), reaching half a million on the profile of Chiara Ferragni, 135 thousand on the page of her younger influencer sister, and 40 thousand on that of her other sister, a dentist. The limitations imposed by the Covid pandemic, the effect on sales of the exhibition is hard to establish, but for sure hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit. Furthermore, this summer in Capalbio, more than one hundred of de Saint Phalle’s works - many of which have never before been exhibited by collectors - are on display in two venues, at the same time as the MoMa in New York, where a large exhibition of the artist’s work is on display until September. This is definitely the summer of the avant-garde Niki, something that has rightly not been overlooked by the cunning and likeable Ferragnez.
The unique Val d’Orcia is the new Chiantishire
Riscoperta nel secolo scorso da Iris Origo, la Val d’Orcia è oggi una meta esclusiva
Il potere della luna piena e come ci influenza
The energy of the «Hunters Moon»
Da Lugano a Kathmandu e poi nel mondo: l’epopea glocal di Patrick Garbini e di Purest