Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

An art day in Maremma at Daniel Spoerri’s garden

On the hills of the Amiata mountain, in a rather remote part of Maremma, there’s a large sculpture park by the Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri. The vast area includes woods as well as open fields, and is home to 108 sculptures, over 40 of which are by Spoerri, and the others selected by him for this space. The garden evolves with new works most years, as well as with the seasons, making it a fascinating open-air art experience.

A bronze statue in the park / Photo Flickr user @giona

A bronze statue in the park / Photo Flickr user @giona

The ArtSmart Travel Roundtable this month is talking about “an art day” and I remembered a 2010 visit to Spoerri’s park as a marvelous day out. You arrive by passing through the Crete Senesi and onto the Amiata mountain, so the trip itself is a treat for the senses. The park itself is large, taking about three hours for a proper visit, at the end of which one might have a picnic or a bite at the on-site bar. I like the idea of taking an “art day”, even if it’s not part of a larger trip – a day dedicated to the visual, with treats for the other senses as well.

Spoerri, now 84 years old and still going strong, is an important theorist who was in contact with a number of surrealist artists (in particular Marcel Duchamp) and was part of the New Realism and Fluxus movements. He’s most famous for his “snare pictures,” moments of everyday life frozen in time, often displayed on a vertical plane – such as a leftover breakfast, now on the walls of the MOMA in New York. He was a pioneer in the 1960s in the creation of works that challenge the meaning of art.

Spoerri's room / Photo Flickr user @suadoni

Spoerri’s room / Photo Flickr user @suadoni

Chance is one of the major themes in his works, and at the Giardino di Daniel Spoerri there’s an important work that is connected to others he made on the same theme. Imagine this: in the middle of the woods, you come across a bronze cube that is partially open – you can peek through a door and a window, and it has no roof, letting in light, rain and leaves. Head inside and you find yourself in a precise replica of the space in which Spoerri was living in 1961. Called “Chamber No. 13, Hotel Carcasonne, Rue Mouffetard 24, Paris,” this replica was made of bronze in 1965 and assembled here in 1998.

An Anecdoted Topography of Chance / Click for source

An Anecdoted Topography of Chance / Click for source

Sample of book text

Sample of book text

How did the artist remember this scene? In 1962 he held a show in Paris and he created a map of his lodgings, which he called “Anecdoted Topography of Chance”. Each item tells a story, sometimes long, about which the artist wrote in a pamphlet an accompanying bookto which four other fluxus artists subsequently contributed. The text is a fascinating document not only of the artist’s life, but of the thought process of and collaboration between artists of this period.

Detail of Hotel Room / Photo Flickr user @francescospatola

Detail of Hotel Room / Photo Flickr user @francescospatola

The hotel room is amongst the most notable and probably most theoretical works in the park.

Many of the others are more discreet – like an old olive tree, naturally split in half, the trunk of which has been gilded by artist Dan Karavan. It’s natural art – you only really notice it when the light hits in the right way.

Tommaso and the gilded olive tree

Tommaso and the gilded olive tree

Some sculptures, like these gilded heads by Eva Aeppli representing the planets, stand out on marble pedestals, but many other works by the same artist or by others are practically hidden within their natural setting.

Eva Aeppli, the Planets / Photo flickr use Francescospatola

Eva Aeppli, the Planets / Photo flickr use Francescospatola

Numerous works can be found near or attached to the pink-painted house on the property. Just behind the building, Spoerri has built a flat “Labyrinth” (1996-98) inspired by a pre-columbian design incised in rock intended to show the link between Father Sun and Mother Earth.

Labyrinth / Photo flicker user Tomtomclub

Labyrinth / Photo flicker user Tomtomclub

Further “afield”, where the property comes out of the woods and opens into a high-laying plane, there are three interesting works that make use of the open space. The Circle of Unicorns by Spoerri seems to invite, or be the product, of some kind of primitive ritual.

Spoerri, Circle of Unicorns / Photo Flickr user @giona

Spoerri, Circle of Unicorns / Photo Flickr user @giona

La Belle Poubelle by Katharina Duwen, is a fascinating rubbish heap with a view. It’s hard to tell if these are artist-made replicas like Spoerri’s hotel room, or if it is truly rubbish that has been artfully dis-arranged.

Duwen, Belle Poubelle

Duwen, Belle Poubelle

And what of the geese? Olivier Estoppey’s 2001 march of geese to the beat of drums on judgement day is charming to look at but scary as a theme. In fact, many of the works in the park deal with dreams, nightmares or death.

Estoppey, Geese / Photo flickr user @ee_biggs

Estoppey, Geese / Photo flickr user @ee_biggs

More positive themes can of course be found here, and the art ranges in style and medium, though it’s all curated by Spoerri himself, who comes for extended stays some four times a year. It’s entirely possible to meet him in the park.

Visitor information

Giardino di Daniel Spoerri
58038 Seggiano (GR)
www.danielspoerri.org
Open daily 11am to sundown. Closed Mondays. In winter (November to March), by appointment only.
Entrance cost 10€

ArtSmart Roundtable

Each month, bloggers who write about art and travel get together to explore a common topic. This month it’s “an art day”. Check out what the others have to say on art days in a number of fascinating locations.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Jenna Francisco

    Intriguing! Looks like a place I’d enjoy visiting. And on a related note, the art park/gardens I recently visited in Brazil also had a lot of works focused on nightmares and creepy stuff.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hmmm. I wonder if it’s a matter of art parks that are good for dealing with this topic, or art in general.

  • Murissa

    This is the first time I have heard of this artist. I love the geese – so odd and yet look like they are in a natural setting. The gilded heads representing the planets is also a very unique idea – the faces give the planets a sort of personality in a way, something I definitely thought each planet has as a kid.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    What a lovely observation about planets, Murissa. I’m afraid I didn’t think much about planets as a child at all :(. I had never heard of Spoerri either before going to his park and looking him up, and was surprised to see how famous he is in the history of modern art.

  • http://www.shoutography.com Lydian

    Excellent! I love places like this where you can spend several hours just wandering through parks or nature while admiring art! Another place we’ll have to visit once in Italy!

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    And another place we must go together!

  • http://a-sense-of-place.com Erin

    Those geese are so creepy!

    I, too, hadn’t heard of Spoerri, but I really like his Chamber piece. The contrast of a time capsule of sorts with the natural decay of being in the open is like a nod to the many ancient ruins in Italy. Like a theoretical Pompeii.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    What a nice way to put it, Erin. Indeed the way rain and leaves come in is a really interesting choice. Luckily the bronze does well in the elements. I still have to think that all these sculptures must get regularly Windexed though… :)