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Émile Taugourdeau, Jardin Zoologique [Zoological Garden]

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About the Artist/Site

It is an impressive snake charmer, with a smile on her lips and two snakes draped over her shoulders, which greets the visitors of the new Garden of Eden, which Taugordeau, a former bricklayer, installed in his yard. He said, “I started sculpting when my duck died in 1974. I wanted to immortalize it and I made a sculpture of him.” This started a passion that Taugordeau would continue until his death.

In the middle of a populace of colorful bears, deer, buffaloes, and flamingos sculpted in cement, cohabiting in total harmony like in the early days of the Bible, one discovers, along small paths, a castle for dwarves with conical chimneys, emerging from Gulliver’s Travels, a tree for parrots, and a Mexican cartoon character feeding three bears, reminiscent of the painting by Giotto where St. Francis of Assisi feeds grain to the birds.  Hundreds of animals, figures in carts, a fisherman with his catch, and a soccer player inhabit this magic garden. Suddenly, one of the animals moves, and you become aware of live peacocks roaming everywhere: a fusion of sculpting and the living model.

Perhaps this form of expression, giving birth to all these creatures, was a way for Taugourdeau to escape the daily routine and to come to the defense of a world without violence, where animals and man can live in peace; a form of utopia. He said, “I don’t think about all that when I create my little world, but there is some truth to it. I leave it up to you.”

On the other side of the country road, a group of figures drink to Émile Taugourdeau, their creator. Here, too are scores more concrete animals; the table around which the men drink invite the passerby in with a sign reading bonjour.

Willem Volkersz (1991)

Update: Although Taugourdeau’s wife continued to care for the site following the artist’s death, after her own death the garden, with more than 300 polychrome concrete sculptures, became overgrown and fell into decay. A random internet search reveals distinct pieces that are for sale or have been sold; it is unknown the circumstances under which they came to market. The current status of the site is non-extant; 2016 visitors were unable to locate it.

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