Le jardin de coquillage (The Shell Garden)Bodan Litnianski (1913-2005)
15 Rue Jean Jaurès, Viry-Noureuil, Picardie, 02300, France
Visitors cannot view the interior of the site, but some of the art environment is visible from the street.
About the Artist/Site
At age 17, shoemaker Bodan Litnianski left his native Ukraine for northern France and found work as a mason. During World War II, he was taken prisoner by the Nazis and forced to work in Poland. At the war’s end, he returned to northern France and settled in Viry-Noureuil, where he purchased an old house in need of significant repair.
As his financial means were modest, Litnianski decided to use recycled materials for most of the renovation. He then began decorating the house with shells, applying them to doors, the façade, and the wall separating the front garden from the street. The site became known as “The Shell Garden.”
Litnianski used other recycled materials, including broken tiles and pottery shards, to decorate the walls that enclosed the property. He then moved on to reconstruct and decorate additional gardens in the back and front yards of the house. He lined the paths with columns constructed out of reinforced concrete, topping some with weathervanes or other rotating devices, and decorated the spaces in between with toys, dolls, machine parts, plastic flowers, and containers—all discards he gathered at the local rubbish dump.
Litnianksi worked actively on the site for many decades, particularly after his retirement in 1975, when he was able to devote all his time to his project. In 2000, at age 87, the mason-artist appeared in Agnes Varda’s film, Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (titled “The Gleaners and I” in the English language edition). By that time he was no longer actively creating new works. He died five years later. His wife died in 2008; the following year, the Litnianskis’ son put the property up for sale, with the proviso that his father’s work be respected.
In 2016 the property was sold to a private party, who has retained the front wall, the decorations on the western wall, and most of the columns intact. They have also restrained the (still extensive) vegetation. Visitors cannot view the interior of the site, but some of the art environment is visible from the street.
~Henk van Es
concrete, dolls, found materials, glass, shells, tile
Map & Site Information
15 Rue Jean Jaurès
Viry-Noureuil, Picardie, 02300 fr
Latitude/Longitude: 49.6294729 / 3.2415842
Ruitz (Nord-Pas-de-Calais), Nord-Pas-de-Calais