One of the most special -and lesser known- places in Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine is its Garden Museum. The collection of stone sculptures by German artist Ulrich Rückriem harmonises perfectly with the austere Duero scenery and, in a way, acts as an extension of the ancient abbey walls.
Finished in May 2009, the museum lies outdoors, just a five-minute walk from the ab-bey. Part of its magic resides in the original combination of vegetation and sculptures, creating a unique atmosphere.
In fact, nature plays a role in this space thanks to the designs of architect Marco Serra. It is a rectangular structure framed by three-metre-tall walls of photinia shrubs which blends in with the colours of the vineyard and creates contrasting sceneries depending on the season of the year you visit. In autumn this plant -also known as Red Robin- takes on the same reddish colour seen on Tempranillo vines after the harvest. Un-doubtedly, it is one of the best times of the year to visit the Garden Museum.
The strength of stone
German sculptor Ulrich Rückriem is known for his stone sculptures, generally associat-ed to minimalism. He extracts large stone slabs from the earth which he carves, chi-sels and polishes and then reassembles on the surface.
His sculptures combine the strength of vertical shapes -up to six metres tall, like the imposing stone stele flanked by two oak trees- with mural and ground reliefs.
The wealth of materials used by the artist throughout his career is also present at the Abadía Retuerta museum. After an apprenticeship at the Cologne cathedral’s stone quarry, Rückriem focused on the dolomite quarry in the North Westphalian town of Anröchte in Germany. This type of stone was used in the altar of the church at the ab-bey. He has a close association with Spain -since the 1990s, he has worked extensively with material from Blokdegal, a quarry in Porriño (Galicia).
A sensorial space
The most striking element in the museum is the painstaking attention with which the various spaces are arranged, always designed to expose Rückriem’s work. One of them, for example, tries to recreate the central cella of a Roman temple with the sculptures and the sky as the only elements in sight for the visitor.
A different stone-cutting technique was used in each one of the three distinct spaces that are demarcated by the high photinia walls: one space is for split sculptures, a sec-ond one for pulverized pieces and a third space for the spectacular black Kubus, a fine-ly polished slab with spectacular reflections of the sky on its surface. This sculpture is seen as a metaphor for the museum itself, with its atmospheric, ever-changing sky being the very antithesis of the austerity and strength of the soil reflected through the sculptures.
Nonetheless, the most beautiful metaphor fails to match the feelings experienced by anyone taking that first walk from the abbey to the Ulrich Rückriem sculptures. Anot-her reason to visit Abadía Retuerta.