“Margherita, I would like to visit something really special before I will go back to Melbourne. Can you help me?” My friend Margherita has spent her life writing about gardens, plants and parks in the Italian magazine ‘Gardenia’. She also founded the Italian Botanical Heritage, an association that gathers well-known Italian gardens and hidden treasures like nurseries, parks and woods, providing specialised itineraries. She knows me, and she knows that I love when art is blended with landscape. Where sculpture meets the garden. Typically Italian, sorry!
Margherita looked at me and just said: “Daniel Spoerri“.
‘Who?’ I replied.
The life of Daniel Spoerri has been intense and cannot be described in few lines. He was born in Romania in 1930, and then he moved to Switzerland with his family in 1942. Dancer, choreographer and poet, in 1960 he begun in Paris his artistic career inventing the tableaux-pièges (trap-paints): common objects glued on boards, like chairs, shoes, and also food.
In 1989 he was spending some time in Italy, in Seggiano, close to Grosseto (Tuscany), where he bought a property and started displaying sculptures made by him or his friends. In 1997 he left Paris to live permanently in Seggiano where he opened the ‘garden’ to the public. Today there are 103 sculptures scattered in 16,000 square meters.
Driving through narrow and lonely routes flanked by oaks, chestnuts and olive trees I was enjoying the scent of the spring. This part of Tuscany is deeply different from the most celebrated image: the Amiata mount, the highest of the region, overlooks the countryside. Instead of hills and cypresses, dense and dark woods contrast with the bright colour of wheat fields. Here the snow appears in winter, the spring is lush, and summer is sweltering and dry.
The Daniel Spoerri garden is not a garden at all; it’s rather an interesting sequence of sceneries: lawns, woods and bushes create various views where the sculptures are skilfully placed in the less expected spots. They are strong, but not dominant. Lights and shadows play with them, adding theatricality and mystery.
All of them are harmoniously included in the landscape, as they have always been there. The sculptures have not a theme: some of them are ironic installations, others are quite dramatic. The scale also is various, from giant to tiny like a 2cm reproduction of the Eiffel Tower. When the wind is blowing, you can listen to wonderful ethereal sounds echoing, coming from an installation made by metal pipes and blending with the bird sounds.
What all the sculptures have in common is affection: it’s a collection of artworks made by Daniel’s closest friends specifically for him and his garden. This completely changes your point of view while you are visiting the property: it’s a piece of land full of creativity, inspiration and, of course, love.
One of the most striking artworks is an interpretation of the classical labyrinth: a 500 meter-long stone wall that, tracing curves and hairpin turns, reminds of a pre-Colombian symbol representing the union between the Sun and the Nature.
Daniel saved the best for last: at the end of the walk through paths immersed in nature, and up to a hill the view becomes wider: hills as far as the eye can see compose a beautiful, breathtaking landscape.
Here, nine horse skulls with a long horn each outstretched to the sky are part of the installation called ‘The Circle of Unicorns’, like just as many planets and constellations. This is the best place to have a seat, waiting for the sunset and the whispers of the stars.
[The Daniel Spoerri garden, (Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri) is open daily 11am-8pm from 1 July to 15 September, and Tuesday to Sunday during spring and autumn/fall. From 1 November to 31 March, the garden is open by appointment only. Cost adults: 10.00 € ]