Aristocratic, model and internationally renowned artist, Niki de Saint Phalle, with her disruptive creativity, has marked an era by celebrating women and freedom through a dreamlike and colorful garden, capable of transforming emotions into a dream.
From Paris to Hannover, from Jerusalem to Zurich, the art of Niki de Saint Phalle still vibrates in the streets of the world surprising anyone who observes it. Exuberant and colorful creations, born from her fervent creative energy, curious and surreal characters, sometimes animalistic and other times anthropomorphic such as his Nanas, the archetypal and powerful female figures that have made her famous.
Among the most important and disruptive sculptors of the twentieth century, Niki de Saint Phalle was born in France in 1930. Her father was a French businessman while the mother was a beautiful American heiress, and little Niki lived her first years between New York and France, where she spent summers in the castle of her paternal grandparents. Here, surrounded by her eclectic family, she began to give shape to her symbolic imagination.
Imagination is my bliss. Imagination exists.(Niki de Saint Phalle)
When she was very young she married Harry Mathews, a young heir, and together they moved to Paris where she worked as a model by posing for Vogue and Elle. During this period, in secret, she began to create artworks but her art concealed a dark shadow, the harassment suffered by her father, that led her to be hospitalized over different periods of time. Right here happened her creative explosion and Niki began, in fact, to create collages with objects of any kind, thus discovering this way her innate talent.
In 1957 she met her great love, the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely with whom an artistic and sentimental partnership was born that led Niki to approach the world of sculpture. Within a few years, she gave life to creations such as the shooting paintings and, above all, her Nanas that will lead her to become in a short time one of the most provocative and disruptive artists of the twentieth century. She designed also jewelry, stage costumes and perfumes, but soon her health began to falter.
During a period of convalescence in St Moritz, Niki met Marella Agnelli, wife of the Italian entrepreneur Gianni Agnelli an art collector, and she proposed her to give life to a monumental garden inspired by the great Catalan artist and architect Gaudí. Marella Agnelli enthusiastically accepted and gave her a family land in Garavicchio in the province of Grosseto. It was 1978 and the Tarot Garden had found its place on earth.
Niki was ill, the years of work breathing toxic fumes of the polyester with which she made her works created serious respiratory problems from which she never recovered. Despite this, she threw herself body and soul into what became her masterpiece, an extraordinary work that kept her busy for almost twenty years. In fact, the park hosts 22 sculptures inspired by the cards of the Major Arcana which for the artist represented a very powerful means of knowledge and spirituality.
To make them, she used various materials: mirrors, steel, colorful majolica and porcelain. All colors follow a symbolic code: red represents creative strength, green vitality, blue is the color of thought and will, white represents purity, black indicates vanity and the pains of the world, while gold symbolizes intelligence and spirituality. Niki built even a house inside the statue of the Empress, entirely covered with mirrors that reflect light, where she lived for several months during the completion of the project.
Jean and a team of craftsmen, artists and architects, including the architect Mario Botta to whom Niki commissioned the creation of the main entrance, supported and helped her in the creation of this dream world that encompasses her artistic but also her spiritual imagination. All the streets of the park are still dotted with writings, messages, symbols and words that tell about her work to the visitors. The Tarot Garden was completed in 1997 and opened to the public the following year, giving the world a truly one-of-a-kind aesthetic and emotional experience, a glimpse into the complex and fascinating imagery of one of the most creative and original women of the century.
Niki de Saint Phalle used to have her bespoke dresses designed by the British designer Thea Porter, the first fashion designer to launch the hippy-chic style in the 1970s, made of flounced dresses in oriental colors and rich silk and chiffon scarves. Born in Damascus, the designer conveyed Arab and Middle Eastern influences in her creations, accentuated by the use of exotic and refined fabrics such as chiffon, crêpe de chine, embroidered silk and velvet brocades with which she created very elegant evening dresses and kaftans.
The Tarot Garden is open from April 1st to October 15th, Monday to Sunday from 2.30 pm to 7.30 pm
By the will of the artist, guided tours are not available in order to leave visitors the freedom to experience and interpret the works according to their own sensitivity.