Carlo GabrieleWhisper of stars: Daniel Spoerri garden

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!

Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

‘The Mask Zura’ by Kimitake Sato, Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

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.

Seggiano, Tuscany

Seggiano, Tuscany

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.

Seggiano, Tuscany

Seggiano, Tuscany

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.

Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

‘The Planets’ by Eva Aeppli, Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

‘Aisle of Damocles’ by Daniel Spoerri. Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

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.

Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

‘Die Grazierinnen’ by Daniel Spoerri, Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

‘Fertile Earth’ by Luigi Mainolfi, Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

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.

Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

‘Judgement Day’ by Olivier Estoppey, Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

Maze in Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

Labyrinthic mural path by Daniel Spoerri, in Daniel Spoerri garden, Seggiano, Tuscany

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.

Nine horse skulls in the 'The Circle of Unicorns' Daniel Spoerri garden

‘The Circle of Unicorns’ by Daniel Spoerri. Daniel Spoerri garden

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 € ]

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Carlo Gabriele

About Carlo Gabriele

Carlo Gabriele is a landscape designer from Milan, Italy, with formal qualifications in Agronomy and Landscape Design. After completing his schooling he worked with notable Italian designer Niccolo Grassi on many high profile projects within Italy and abroad which have received a lot of media attention in Marie Claire, Maison, Elle Decoration, Vanity Fair, Gardenia and Home Beautiful. In 2010 Carlo started his own design firm, Carlo Gabriele Architettura dei Giardini, designing outdoor spaces from tiny intimate courtyards to entire city parks. He has also designed striking outdoor furniture and exquisite pots; the latter have been produced and sold by the Italian company Laboratorio San Rocco. Most recently Carlo moved to Melbourne Australia where he has established his design company Carlo Gabriele Gardens.

5 thoughts on “Whisper of stars: Daniel Spoerri garden

  1. Alison S on said:

    Fascinating and beautiful. I particularly like the dramatic siting of the “Circle of Unicorns”. I was reminded, as I read about the garden, of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s ‘Little Sparta’ in Scotland. There, too, the garden is primarily a setting for the sculpture, which is deeply symbolic and relates to the artist’s personal philosophy. The main difference is Hamilton Finlay’s frequent use of text to convey meaning, while Spoerri achieves this entirely by visual forms and imagery.

  2. carlo gabriele on said:

    Absolutely true! I really like sculptures and I am crazy for the use of text: that’s why I loved the Swiss landscape designer Dieter Kienast. There’s not so much about him on Internet, but I found a couple of images here (http://www.green-agenda.de/IHF_3.html).
    I am glad you liked the article!

    • Alison S on said:

      Thank you Carlo. I hadn’t heard of Dieter Kienast but now I am on a mission to find out more about him. Maybe my German-speaking daughter can help!

  3. Brilliant, Carlo, thanks for sharing this fascinating place. I am not long back from Italy where I really enjoyed visiting a late 16th century (!) sculpture garden at Villa Orsini, Bomarzo. Like the place you write about, it’s not about garden detail but about space, background planting and art – and also steep slopes. The sculpture works there are often exciting, sometimes confrontational and almost always make you ask questions, especially the ‘Leaning House’ where walking inside makes you feel quite dizzy. It is amazing to think that the works were created more than four centuries ago. I look forward to tracking down the Daniel Spoerri garden if I am in Italy again and do so much wish I had seen it this time!

    • carlo gabriele on said:

      Thank you Anne! There are many similiraties between Bomarzo and this garden, as you noticed. Most of all, they show the same concept of pieces of art nestled in the nature, as they have always been there.
      That part of Italy is plenty of interesting parks, gardens and nurseries: the Moutan nursery, for example, which is the biggest European Peonies collection, or Villa d’Este at Tivoli or Villa Lante at Bagnaia….Too many things to see and always not enough time!

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