The Tarot Garden is an art park designed by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who created sculptures inspired by the Major Arcana of Tarot Cards.
Niki de Saint Phalle, French-American painter and sculptor, started designing the Tarot Garden in 1979. The artist decides to embark upon this project following the inspiration she got from her visit at Antoni Gaudì’s Parque Guell in Barcelona.
Identifying the Garden with the magical and spiritual dream of her life, Niki de Saint Phalle devoted herself to the creation of 22 monumental figures made of steel and cement. They are covered with glass, mirrors and colorful ceramics. The project took more than seventeen years to complete. The artist was helped by a team of famous contemporary artists of her time, besides numerous expert workers.
Niki’s husband, Jean Tinguely, created the enormous sculptures’ steel armatures and also included in the project some of his ‘mécaniques’, self-propelled sculptural machines made of steel mechanical elements.
In summer 1996 the Tarot Garden is completed. The project costs reached and overcame five million euros, which were entirely born by the artist and her family.
In 1997, Niki de Saint Phalle constitutes the Tarot Garden Foundation whose only aim is to preserve and maintain the work realized by the sculptor. On May, 15 th 1998 the Tarot Garden finally opens to the public.
Tarots as a symbol and archetype
Tarot cards’ history can be traced back to long time ago. Tarot cards were created as a game of cards portraying animals, characters, virtues and real situations. There is evidence of endless variations of this game’s rules but very few ancient decks have been found. We know that cards were painted with loads of details and that beside expensive and sought-after decks, cheaper decks spread across Europe.
In the seventeenth century, tarot cards were used as a plot to create intricate and funny stories that entertained European courts during long evenings.
Tarot cards used as tools of divination and their establishment as a 22-card deck of Major Arcana are a relatively modern idea, about which there is evidence starting from late 1700’s.
Arcana represent things, people, situations. They are not positive either negative and can be read individually or together with other cards being displayed. Behind the origin of the use of Tarot cards as divination tools is the idea that human beings’ verbal communication is direct but also indirect, subliminal, archetypal and symbolic.
In this picture finds a place the Tarot Garden by Niki de Saint Phalle, a giant card deck, a wonderful daydream and colorful play.
The sun, the stars but also the sea
What is impressive about Tarot Garden is the size of the figures. Just like Guadì’s park in Barcelona, the Tarot Garden develops on different levels, playing with perspectives, dimensions and reflexes.
Lights and shadows break against the hundreds of colorful tiles covering the arcana. Glasses, mirrors, glazed terracotta sparkle under the sun of Maremma. The olive trees in the park and the surrounding nature contrast with the statues’ bright and vivid colors. A tour of the Garden is suggested for adults but also for children.