A view of the surrounding mountains from Anima. All photos courtesy of Andre Heller.
Morroco's landscape doesn't exactly lend itself to a lush array of indigenous vegetation, but that hasn't stopped international horticulturalists and comtemporary artists from breathing new life into garden spaces.
MARRAKECH – The dusty road that leads from Marrakech to the High Atlas mountains is filled with goats, makeshift fruit stands, and groups of men in long dress waiting for a ride home. Greenery is not easy to find in this part of the world. Or at least it didn't use to be. A handful of new gardens in Marrakech are changing the green profile of the area.
Twenty-eight kilometers outside town, bright, multi-colored walls announce the entrance to Anima, the new garden created by André Heller, Austria's craziest artist.
Heller, whose other multi-media projects include a massive garden on Lake Garda in Italy, launching the National Circus in China, and making a documentary about Hitler's last secretary, spent six years transforming eight hectares of erstwhile desert wasteland into his paradise garden.
Now, here in the middle of nowhere, one finds works from iconic artists like Keith Haring to Pablo Picasso dotted among thousands of roses and palm trees of all kinds.
"We have the maximum number of palm trees it is possible to grow here," explains another unlikely gardener, filmmaker Gregor Weiss, the co-curator of Anima. "Every single plant was shipped here. There was nothing before.”
A garden seems like a strange project for a man who launched Austria's first pop station, was the host of the TV show Wunch Dir Was, and whose giant, otherworldly sculptures include subjects as diverse as a 60-meter-high bamboo figure that once floated in the port in Hong Kong, and whose book readings in Vienna draw more than a million spectators.
"Heller is a crazy and prolific artist,” says Weiss. "He is a natural multi-hyphenate. Ever curious.”
In addition to plants, Anima is home to a Druid-style stone garden, Chinese zodiac columns, a glass house for children to play in, and the Paul Bowles Café, decorated with straw hats.