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Niki de Saint Phalle

 (1930 - 2002)
Niki de Saint Phalle was active/lived in California, New York / France.  Niki de Saint Phalle is known for "nana" female figure sculptures, paintings, assemblages.

Niki de Saint Phalle

Biography from the Archives of askART

Niki de Saint Phalle was born Catherine Marie-Agnes Fal de Saint Phalle at Neuilly-sur-Seine, and was the second of five children of Jeanne Jacqueline, nee Harper and Andre Marie de Saint Phalle, a banker. In the early 1930s, her father lost all the family money in the stock market crash of 1929, and Niki and her elder brother were separated from their parents and sent to live with paternal grandparents in the Nievre area of France for the next three years. In 1933, the family reunited in Greenwich, Connecticut, and spent summers in France with American maternal grandfather Donald Harper at his chateau .

In 1937 the family moved to New York City and lived there for 10 years. Niki started school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and at this age she was much influenced by comic books and visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She went to a number of schools, and at the Brearley School, she became interested in literature, especially the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and the Greek tragedies. She discovered Russian authors and passionately read all the Dostoevsky novels. She was also interested in acting in the school's plays and poetry. She was later dismissed from Brearley for painting the fig leaves red on the school's statuary.  She eventually graduated from Old Field School, a private all girl school in Maryland, and from the late 40s to mid 50s, worked as fashion model for Vogue, Life, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, and other French and American magazines.

At age eighteen, she eloped with Harry Mathews and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. She began to paint, experimenting with different media and style while her husband studied music at Harvard University. Their first child, Laura, was born April 1951.

In 1952, she and her husband moved to Paris where Niki studied theater and acting, and her husband continued his studies in music. He later became a writer, and founder of the literary magazine Locus Solus. They shared the upbringing of their daughter, and traveled through France, Italy, and Spain visiting museums and cathedrals.

Niki was hospitalized in Nice in 1953 with a nervous breakdown. She re-evaluated the direction of her life, painted to help her recovery, and communicated through her art.

In 1954, she was introduced to Hugh Weiss, the American painter, who was a friend, mentor and encouraged her to continue in her self-taught painting style.  Niki and her husband moved to Deya, Majorca, Spain where son Philip was born in May 1955.

They returned to France, and in Paris she had her first meeting with sculptor Jean Tinguely and his wife Eva Aeppli. In 1956, she held her first solo exhibition of paintings, which was in St. Gall, Switzerland. During this time she painted and explored various collage elements. Three years later she viewed a contemporary art exhibition at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris including work by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

Niki and Harry Mathews eventually separated, and the children lived with their father. While apart from her family, she immersed herself in her work, setting up a studio, and creating assemblages* that took on an angry aspect in a new series called 'target' paintings, which actually had darts thrown at them.

At the end of 1960 she lived and shared a studio with Jean Tinguely; eventually they collaborated and assisted each other on projects throughout their relationship. Constantin Brancusi was a neighbor, and through Tinguely she met Pontus Hulten, then director of the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Hulten included her work in major exhibitions organized at the time.

Niki served as an ambassador figure between the avant-garde* in France and the United States, due to her bi-cultural background and the direction in her own art.

In 1961, she developed her 'target' paintings into a series of 'shooting' paintings or "tirs". It is through acts of destruction that these works were created---the assemblages were shot with a pistol, rifle or cannon by herself or others, producing spontaneous effects and the dispersion of colors. As they evolved, the "tirs" became larger, more elaborate in concept and included elements of spectacle and performance.

Pierre Restany, founder of the Nouveau Realistes*, attended her first public "tir", and invited her to become a member of his movement. She became involved in the ideas, festivals and activities of the group, which included Pierre Arman, Baldaccini Cesar, Javacheff Christo, Gerard Deschamps, Francois Dufrene, Raymond Hains, Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Mimmo Rotella, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques Villegle.

Niki had her first solo exhibition in Paris at Galerie J with assemblages, tirs, and a public shooting area.

She and Tinguely were introduced to Salvador Dali by Marcel Duchamp, and Niki traveled to Spain with Tinguely for a celebration honoring Dali. There they made a life-size exploding bull with plaster, paper and fireworks for the arena at Figueras.

The couple then moved to an old country inn outside of Paris to live and work, and she began working with figurative reliefs, confrontational depictions of women, some giving birth or vivi-sectioned. Inspired by the pregnancy of her friend Clarisse Rivers, she began considering archetypal female figures in relation to her thinking on the position of women in society. From this idea, she created freely posed forms, made of papier-mache, yarn and cloth and called them 'Nanas', which were exhibited at the Alexander Lolas Gallery, Paris, September 1965.

In 1966, Niki collaborated with Tinguely and Per Olof Ultlvedt on a large scale sculpture installation*, hon-en katedral for Moderna Museet, Stockholm. The outer form of "hon" is a giant, reclining 'Nana', whose internal environment is entered from between her legs.

Tinguely and Niki received a commission from the French Government to make a sculpture for "Expo '67" in Montreal, Canada. Their collaboration, Le Paradis Fantastique, a combination of their distinct styles, is installed on the roof of the French Pavilion. After "Expo'67", attempts failed to find a permanent home for the sculpture in either France or the United States, and the piece was saved from destruction through the efforts of Pontus Hulten, and eventually acquired and installed at Moderna Museet.

Les Nanas au Pouvoir, Niki de Saint Phalle's first retrospective exhibition, was organized at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. She created a number of new pieces for the show that emphasized a direction toward architectural and functional design.

Niki was also involved in writing during this period and some of her work was adapted into a play with Rainer Von Diez, ICH. She also designed decors, costumes, and the posters for this play, which was presented at the Staatstheater Kassel, Germany, 1968, and created 'Nana' inflatables, plastic multiples produced and distributed in the United States.

Her first permanent architectural project was privately commissioned in 1969 for a summer residence in the South of France and was completed in 1971. She continued to be involved in 'fantastic' architectural projects requiring her total commitment in all stages of planning and execution.  Sculpture Black Venus was acquired by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and exhibited in the museum's show, "Contemporary American Sculpture, Selection II", April 69.  She traveled to India and Egypt, which broadened the context of visual associations used in her work.

Niki and Jean Tinguely were married in 1971 and traveled to Morocco. In 1972, she began productive association with art fabricator, Haligon, France, for her large-scale sculptures and work in editions. She also designed jewelry for GEM Montebello Laboratory, Milan.

One of the films she wrote, Daddy, she also acted in, produced and directed with Peter Whitehead. The film is a surreal*, psychological exploration of a relationship between a father and a tri-part character of the daughter as child, adolescent and adult.

In 1974, she built three large-scale 'Nanas' for a permanent site, near the town hall in Hanover, Germany.  The city names them Sophie, Charlotte and Caroline in honor of three historically distinguished women from Hanover.  She later exhibited maquettes of realized and unrealized architectural projects, created an artist book and invitations to accompany the show.

Niki was hospitalized with a serious lung ailment, and it is believed that through her work she was exposed to toxic fumes produced by polyester. This and other materials used cause severe damage to her lungs that resulted in recurrent health problems. To help recover, she lived in the Swiss mountains, where she read Gaston Bachelar, Rainer Maria Rilke and Konstandinos Kavafy.  She met a friend she had known in New York in the 1950's, Marella Caracciolo Agnelli, to whom she confided her ultimate dream-to build a sculpture garden based on her interpretations of symbols from the Tarot. Her friend's brothers, Carlo and Nicola Caracciolo, offered a parcel of their land in Tuscany, Italy as a site for her dream. The massive undertaking of the garden consumed her thoughts and energies for the next twenty years.

In 1975, her eighteen element sculptural tableau Last Night I Had a Dream was installed on the exterior of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, for an arts festival.

Land was cleared and foundations dug at the site in Tuscany, formally named "Giardino dei Tarocchi" in 1978-79. The first models were related to the Tarot figures represented in the Garden. She became interested in the idea of linear sculpture-drawings in space and makes the "Skinnys", a series of totem-like pieces that often have colored lights and elements suspended by string.  She began to design furniture and other functional objects with serpents and figurative forms.

She spent some time living in Malibu, California, and conceived a series of maquettes based on new ideas for architectural fantasies. These works were first exhibited at Gimpel & Weitzenhffer, New York, and then traveled in the United States.  She then had her first solo show in Japan at Gallery Watari, Tokyo.

The symbols of the Tarot guided the creation of the Garden.  Construction began on the first architectural sculpture, La Papesse, representing female creativity and strength. She spent the major part of the next ten years on site receiving assistance from many friends and supporters. Jean Tinguely together with Rico Weber and Seppi Imhof began welding the iron under structures for the first group of enlarged Tarot Figures; this work involved special engineering skills for each piece, and was taken over and completed by Dutch artist, Doc Wilsen.

The Ulm Museum organized the first retrospective devoted to her graphic work.  Poet et sa Muse was permanently installed at the University of Ulm, and she was honored with a major retrospective at Musee National d'art Moderne, Centre George Pompidou, Paris, that traveled to Austria, Germany and Sweden.

One of the first shows was organized at experimental space, SPACE NIKI, Tokyo. Established by Yoko Masuda, SPACE NIKI became a collection of work in all media, films and related material that further understanding of the artist and her work.

In 1982, she created a fragrance with her name for the Jaqueline Cochran Company, New York. She was instrumental in the design of the distinctive blue and gold bottles and packaging with logo of entwined serpents. The money from the perfume went to help finance the Garden. She collaborated with Tinguely to create a foundation for the City of Paris on a site beside the Centre George Pompidou. They combined their sculptural elements in a fluid, moving setting, producing a joyous spontaneity-an apt homage to Igor Stravinsky for whom the fountain is named.

She created a permanent sculpture Sun God for the University of California at San Diego as part of the Stuart Collection. She also designed print for a project to support an alternative art space, the Temporary Contemporary, Los Angeles.  The work, in the form of a picto-graphic letter, expressed her early awareness and concern for those afflicted by AIDS. She continued to be involved in efforts to reverse the effects of ignorance and bias which allow this fatal virus to spread.

Niki de Saint Phalle began to suffer from debilitating attacks of rheumatoid arthritis. She continued to exhibit at the "Skinnys" at Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, New York and at Gimpel Fils, London. She eventually moved into the "Empress", the Sphinx structure at the Tarot Garden. This was her home and studio for the next seven years during the period of intense work of completing the Garden. Works based on her Tarot figures, accompanied by an artist book, are exhibited at Gimpel Fils, London and at Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, New York.

In collaboration with Dr. Silvio Barandun, she wrote and illustrated the book AIDS: You Can't Catch it Holding Hands. This informative text, presented in a positive and compassionate format, is published in seven languages.  She received a commission from Mrs. Helen Schneider to create a fountain, Snake Tree, for the Schneider Children's Hospital, Long Island, New York. Two major retrospectives are held at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturtiftung, Munich, and Nassau County Museum of Fine Art, Long Island, New York.

Working with Tinguely in 1989, they created Fontaine Chateau Chinon, commissioned by the French President, Francois Mitterand. Alexandre Iolas, her long-time friend, died. Niki began to be represented in Paris by JGM Gallery and Gallery de France, and these galleries organized a number of exhibits that focused on different periods in her career.

She started to use bronze in a series of sculpture derived from ancient Egyptian deities.  The experience of the Tarot Garden carries over in her use of materials, particularly brilliantly colored or mirrored mosaics.

In 1991, she created a maturate for Le Temple Ideal, a place for worship for all religions. This architecture was originally conceived in the early 1970's as a hopeful alternative to the religious intolerance she observed while working in Jerusalem.  She received a commission from the city of Nimes, France, to build this architectural sculpture, however because of politics, this project is never realized.  Jean Tinguely died in Switzerland in August, and in his honor, she made her first kinetic* sculptures Meta-Tinguelys.

The Kunst und Ausstellunghalle, Bonn organized a large retrospective in 1992-93. She exhibited in McLellan Galleries in Glasgow, the Musee d'art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musee D'Art et d'Histoire, Fribourg. She installed the fountain Oiseau Amoureux in Duisburg, Germany, and created a sculpture for Olympic Museum Les Footballeurs.

In 1994, she moved to California, where she spent the last years of her life. She worked on a series of silk screens, California Diary, for Kornfeld editions. She received the Caran d'Ache. Peter Schamoni produced a long feature film about Niki entitled Who is the Monster, You or Me?, and she also held an exhibit at the Kornfeld Gallery in Bern, Switzerland.

The Garden first opened to the public in July of 1996-1998.  She had been working with Mario Botta on a project to build a sculpture park for children, representing the arrival of Noah and the Arch to the promised land.  The official opening of the Tarot Garden to the Public was May 15, 1998.

Niki de Saint Phalle died in 2002 in San Diego, California.

Website of the artist

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary:

Biography from Nohra Haime Gallery

1930 Born in France


"La Fontaine Stravinsky," Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
"Oiseau pour Jean-Jacques," Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris
"Chat de Ricardo," Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris
"Le Cyclop," Milly-la-Forêt, France
"Arbre serpents fontaine," Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers, France
"La Fontaine de Château-Chinon," Château-Chinon, France
"Le Monstre du Loch Ness," Promenade des Arts, Nice, France
"Miles Davis," Hotel Negresco, Nice
"Nana danseuse (jaune)," Hotel Negresco, Nice
"Hannover Nanas (Sophie, Charlotte, Caroline)," Hannover, Germany
"Grotto," Herrenhäuser Gärten, Hannover
"Oiseau Amoureux Fontaine / Lebensretter-Brunnen," Duisburg, Germany
"Nana on a Dolphin," Landungsbrücken St. Pauli, Hamburg
"Le Poète et sa Muse," Universität Ulm, Germany
"Golem (Mifletzet)," Rabinovitch Park, Jerusalem, Israel
"Noah's Ark Sculpture Park," Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, Jerusalem
"The Tarot Garden," Pescia Fiorentina, Capalbio, Italy
"Nana Mosaïque Noire," Capalbio
"La Tempérance," Centre Hamilius, Luxembourg
"Relief," Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, Scotland
"L'Ange Protecteur," Zürich Hauptbahnhof, Switzerland
"Grand oiseau amoureux," Private Collection, Morat, Switzerland
"Coming Together," San Diego Convention Center, CA
"Le Poete et sa Muse," Mingei International Museum, San Diego, CA
"Nikigator," Mingei International Museum, San Diego, CA
"Pizza Oven," Restaurant Barbarella, La Jolla, CA
"Queen Califia's Magical Circle," Iris Sankey Arboretum, Escondido, CA
"Sun God," University of California, San Diego, CA
"Arbre Serpents Fontaine," New Hyde Park, New York
"L'oiseau de feu sur l'arche (The Firebird)," Bechtler Museum of Modern Art,
Charlotte, NC
"Le Dragon de Knokke," Private Collection, Knokke, Belgium
"Star Fountain - Blue," Armory Arts Week/The Armory Show, Times Square, New York


1956 "Niki Mathews New York Gemälde, Gouachen," Galerie Restaurant
Gotthard, St. Gallen, Switzerland
1961 "Feu à Volonté," Galerie J., Organized by Pierre Restany, Paris, France
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Køpcke Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark
1962 "Action de tir," Everett Ellin Gallery, shooting session, Los Angeles,
Shooting session, Malibu Hills, CA
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Rive Droite, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Alexander Iolas Gallery in collaboration with
Jean Larcade (Paris), New York, NY
1963 "King Kong," The Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles
1964 "Niki de Saint Phalle," The Dwan Gallery in association with the
Alexander Iolas Gallery, Los Angeles
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Geneva, Switzerland
"Niki de Saint Phalle: You Are My Dragon," Hanover Gallery, London,
1965 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris
1966 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York
1967 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Les Nanas au pouvoir," Stedelijk Museum,
curated by Ad Petersen, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Traveled to
Kunstverein für die Rheinlande Westfalen, Dusseldorf, Germany and
Künstlerhaus, Hanover, Hanover Kunstverein as "Niki de Saint Phalle:
Werke 1962-1968"
"Papier-Mâché Animals in a Zoo," Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Voir les mini-nanas en plâtre peint et aussi des
dessins," Galerie Espace, Amsterdam
1968 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zürich, Switzerland
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Hanover Gallery, London
"Flash Niki de Saint Phalle: Hier soir j'ai fait un rêve," Galerie
Alexandre Iolas, Paris
1969 "Plastiken, Zeichnungen und Graphiken von Niki de Saint Phalle,"
Galerie Stangl, Munich, Germany
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Kunstmüseum, Lucerne, Switzerland
"New Lithographs and Sculptures," Frank Perls Gallery, Beverly Hills,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Nana fontaine," Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Geneva
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Grafieken en reliefs in Seriaal," Galerie
Seriaal, Amsterdam
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Hanover Gallery, London
1970 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Le Rêve de Diane," Galerie Alexandre Iolas,
"Les Nanas," Pavillon Baltard, Les Halles, Paris, France. Traveled to
Galerie Felix Handschin, Basel, Switzerland and Galleria Alexandre
Iolas, Milan, Italy as "The Dream Machine"
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Nana Power," La Hune, Paris
Galerie Felix Handschin, Basel
"Niki de Saint Phalle zeigt neue Objekte und Serigraphien," Gimpel &
Hanover Galerie, Zürich
1971 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Serigraphien und kleine Skulpturen,"
Kammerkunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Serigrafie - Sculture," La Galleria - Cavalieri
Hilton, Rome, Itlay
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Nana Power Polykroma Skulpturer,"
Svensk-Franska Konstgallerier, Stockholm, Sweden
"Niki de Saint Phalle: 'The Devouring Mothers' and Other Sculptures,"
Galerie Espace, Amsterdam
"Niki de Saint Phalle: New Multiples & Graphics," Galerie Seriaal,
1972 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Les funérailles du père," Galerie Alexandre
Iolas, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Niki avant les Nanas, oeuvres de 1963 et 1964,"
Galerie Bonnier, Geneva
"Niki de Saint Phalle: The Devouring Mothers," Gimpel Fils, London.
Traveled to Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York
1974 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Projets et réalisations d'architecture," Galerie
Alexandre Iolas, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Skulpturen, Zeichnungen, Graphik, Ballon-Nanas,"
Galerie Dr. Ernst Hauswedell, Baden-Baden, Germany
1975 "Niki de Saint Phalle," exhibition organized in association with the
1975 Festival d'Arles in the Romanesque rooms at the Monastère de Saint-
Trophime, Arles, France
"Festival Europalia-France 1975," Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Silkscreens," Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery,
New York
1976 "Beelden, modellen en maquettes van Niki de Saint Phalle," Museum
Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands
"Niki de Saint-Phalles sculpturer," Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg,
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Bonnier, Geneva
1977 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Sculptures and Graphicsm" Gimpel &
Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York
1979 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Watari Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Monumental Projects, Maquettes and Photographs,"
Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York. Traveled to Columbus
Museum of Art, OH; Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, MI;
Mandeville Art Gallery, University of California at San Diego,
La Jolla, CA; Palm Springs Desert Museum, CA
1980 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Werke 1960-1980," Galerie Bischofberger,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Objekte-Grafiken," Bawag Fondation, Vienna,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Das graphische Werk 1968-1980. Figuren," Ulm
Museum, Ulm, Germany
"L'exposition retrospective de Niki de Saint Phalle," Musée National
d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, curated by Pontus
Hulten and Jean-Yves Mock, Paris. Traveled to Wilhelm-
Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg, Germany; Neue Galerie, Linz,
Austria; Nuremberg Kunsthalle, Nuremberg, Germany; Haus am
Waldsee, Berlin, Germany; Hanover Kunstmuseum with Sprengel
Collection, Hanover, Germany; Moderna Museet, Stockholm
"Niki de Saint Phalle (Space Niki Collection)," Space Niki, Tokyo. Part
1: "Prints Nana Power," Part 2: "Posters and Film "Daddy," Part
3: "Prints 'Ich' etc," Part 4: "Newly Imported Prints," Part 5:
"Portraits and Film "Daddy," Part 6, "Sculptures"
1981 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Samy Kinge, Paris
1982 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Nana Object," Watari Gallery, Tokyo
"Niki de Saint Phalle: New Works (My Skinnies)," Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer
Gallery, New York
"My Skinnies," Gimpel Fils, London
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Colette Creuzevault, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Space Niki, Tokyo
1983 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Sculptures et lithographies," Galerie Esperanza,
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
1985 "Niki de Saint Phalle 1962-1980: Retrospektive," Galerie Klaus
Littmann, Basel
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Casino Knokke, Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium
"Niki de Saint Phalle: The Tarot," Gimpel Fils, London
"Niki de Saint Phalle: New Sculptures Based on 'The Tarot'," Gimpel &
Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York
1986 "Niki de Saint Phalle (Space Niki Collection): sculptures prints
drawings films video performance talk-session," Space Niki &
Sagacho Exhibition Space, Tokyo
Niki de Saint Phalle (Space Niki Collection): Prints," Space Niki,
"Niki de Saint Phalle (Space Niki Collection)," exhibition organized by
Space Niki at Seibu Department Store, Ohtsu, Japan
"Cinq Vases par Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Colette Creuzevault,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Veistoksja ja reliefejä / Sculptures and
reliefs," Kaj Forsblom Gallery, Helsinki, Finland
1987 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Bilder - Figuren - Phantastische Gärten,"
Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Skulpturen, Lithographien, Objekte," Artcurial,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Oeuvres récentes," Galerie Bonnier, Geneva
"Fantastic Vision: Works by Niki de Saint Phalle," Nassau County Museum
of Art, curated by Phyllis Stigliano and Janice Parente,
Roslyn, NY
1988 "Niki de Saint Phalle: The Wounded Animals," Gimpel Fils, London
"Sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle," The Blackfriars, presented by The
Canterbury Theatre and Festival Trust, Canterbury, England
1989 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Oeuvres des années 80," Galerie de France and
JGM, Paris. Traveled to Palais Bénédictine, Fécamp, France;
Zoumboulakis Galleries, Athens, Greece
"Magic Tree Fountain," Schneider Children's Hospital, Long Island, NY
1990 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Tirs ... et autres révoltes 1961-1964," JGM
Galerie and Galerie de France, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Last Night I Had a Dream," Guy Pieters Gallery,
Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium
"Niki de Saint Phalle: New Sculptures," Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery,
New York
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Lutte contre le sida," Musée des Arts
Décoratifs, Paris
1991 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Sculptures," Hokin Gallery, Palm Beach, FL
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Skulpturen und Grafik," Galerie Artcuriel,
"Niki de Saint Phalle au Château d'Arsac," Château d'Arsac, Margaux,
"Gods," Gimpel Fils, London
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Oeuvres récentes," Guy Pieters Gallery, Knokke-
le-Zoute, Belgium
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Signierte Original-Serigraphien," Galerie
Hochwacht, Winterthur, Switzerland
1992 "Niki de Saint Phalle: SIDA ... Aids," Galerie Reinhausen des Wilhelm
Lehmbruck Museums Duisburg, Duisburg, Germany
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle, Bonn, Germany.
Traveled to McLellan Galleries, Glasgow, Scotland as "Niki de
Saint Phalle: Her life and art," and Musée d'Art Moderne de la
Ville de Paris, France as "Niki de Saint Phalle: L'invitation
au musée"
1993 "Le Cirque de papier de Niki," Casino Knokke, Knokke-le-Zoute,
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Salle Attane, Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, France
"Niki de Saint Phalle." Gallery Delaive, Amsterdam
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Oeuvres choisies," Galerie Bonnier, Geneva
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Freitagsgalerie Imhof, Solothurn, Switzerland
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Musée de l'Art et de l'Histoire, Fribourg,
"Les Footballers," Musée Olympique, Lausanne, Switzerland
1994 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Dimensions Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Niki Museum, Nasu, Japan
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Tableaux éclatés + sculptures," Maxwell Davidson
Gallery & James Goodman Gallery, New York
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Bürki, Ostermundigen, Switzerland
1995 "Niki de Saint Phalle," à travers la ville, Luxembourg
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Munich
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Skulpturen, Gouachen, Serigraphie,
Lithographien," Galerie Kornfeld, Bern
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico.
Traveled to Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas Sofia Imber,
Caracas, Venezula; Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá, Columbia;
Fundação Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Pinacoteca
do Estado, São Paulo, Brazil; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes,
Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sala de Exposiciones Edificio CTC,
Santiago de Chile, Chile
1996 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Voight, Nuremberg
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Graphik und Skulpturen," Kunstkabinett,
Regensburg, Germany. Traveled to Galerie Schönenberger,
Kirchberg, Germany; Galerie Wild, Frankfurt, Germany
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Rafael Vostell, Berlin
1997 "Niki de Saint Phalle + Jean Tinguely," Kunst Raum, Bayreuth,
"I Tarocchi di Niki de Saint Phalle," Polveriera Guzman, Orbetello,
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Kunstverein, Wolfsburg, Germany
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Kornfeld, Bern. Traveled to Galerie
Kornfeld, Zurich
1998 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Delaive, Amsterdam
"Niki de Saint Phalle - Neue Graphik," Kleine Galerie, Ingelheim,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Insider / Outsider World Inspired Art," Mingei
International Museum, San Diego, CA
"Niki de Saint Phalle - Céramiques et mosaïques." Galerie Bonnier,
1999 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Espace Jean Tinguely - Niki de Saint Phalle,
Fribourg, Switzerland
"Traces," JGM Galerie, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle - Liebe, Protest, Phantasie," Ulmer Museum, Ulm.
Traveled to Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein, Germany and Kunstalle un
Emden, Germany
2000 "La Fête. Die Schenkung Niki de Saint Phalle. Werke aus den Jahren
1952-2001," Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany. Traveled to
Museum Jean Tinguely, Basel as "Niki de Saint Phalle: Werke aus
den Jahren 1952-2001"
2001 "Niki de Saint Phalle: La vie joyeuse des objets," Musée de la
publicité, Union des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Wetterling Gallery, Stockholm
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Les dieux de la musique et du sport," Ecuries
Saint-Hugues de Cluny, Cluny, France. Traveled to Le Consortium Dijon,
Dijon, France
2002 "Niki de Saint Phalle: La donation," Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art
Contemporain (MAMAC), Nice, France
"Les Niki de Saint Phalle," Musée Mandet, Riom, France
"Von Niki Mathews zu Niki de Saint Phalle - Gemälde der 1950er Jahre,"
Sprengel Museum, Hannover
2003 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Ernst Múzeum, Budapest, Hungary. Traveled to
Galeria Zacheta, Warsaw, Poland; National Museum, Krakow, Poland
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Brandts Klaedefabric, Odense, Denmark
"Champs Libres. Zoo Exquis: L'arche Fantastique de Niki de Saint
Phalle," Eglise de Pontgivart, Aumenancourt, France
"Niki de Saint Phalle: de la couleur aux écrites," Médiathèque Jules
Verne, Saint Jean de Védas, France
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Herbert Palmer Gallery, Los Angeles
"Hommage à Niki de Saint Phalle," Jardins du Palais Royal. Organized by
JGM Galerie, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Die Geburt der Nanas," Sprengel Museum, Hanover.
Traveled to KunstHaus Wien, Vienna, Austria
"Niki de Saint Phalle Remembered," Mingei International Museum,
Escondido, CA
2004 "Nanas depuis 1965," JGM Galerie, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle: California Dreaming," California Center for the
Arts Escondido Museum, Escondido, CA
"Niki de Saint Phalle, des assemblages aux oeuvres monumentales," Musée
des Beaux-Arts, Angers, France
"Seltene Graphiken von Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie & Edition Bode
GmbH, Nuremberg
"Niki de Saint Phalle - Skulpturen - Grafik - Unikate," Fischerplatz
Galerie, Ulm
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Galerie Hafenrichter & Flügel (formerly
Galeria 2000, Nuremberg
"Niki de Saint Phalle - Early works & prints from the collection of the
MAMAC, Nice," Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Germany. Traveled to De
Zonnehof, Amersfoort, Netherlands
2005 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Der Tarot-Garten - Skulpturen, Entwürfe,
Zeichnungen," Sprengel Museum, Hannover
"Nana Power: Die Frauen der Niki de Saint Phalle," Schloss
Neuhardenberg, Berlin
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Les Jardins de Poppy, Le Thor, France
"Niki de Saint Phalle & Jean Tinguely: Plakate," Versicherungskammer
Bayern, Munich. Traveled to Kunstmuseum Heidenheim, Heidenheim,
Germany; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany
Niki & Jean, l'Art et l'Amour," Sprengel Museum (a collaboration
between the Sprengel Museum Hannover, Jean Tinguely Museum
Basel and Niki Charitable Art Foundation California), Hanover.
Traveled to Museum Tinguely, Basel; Centro Atlántico de Arte
Moderno, Gran Canaria Island, Spain; Ulmer Museum, Ulm
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Tableaux Eclatés," California Center for the
Arts Escondido Museum, Escondido, CA
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Grafik und Objekte," Galerie am Dom, Wetzlar,
2006 "Niki de Saint Phalle: Retrospective," Daimaru Museum Umeda, Japan.
Traveled to Daimaru Museum Tokyo; Nagoya City Art Museum,
Japan; Fukui City Art Museum, Japan
"Niki in the Garden: The Extraordinary Sculptures of Niki de Saint
Phalle," Atlanta Botanical Garden, GA. Traveled to Garfield
Park Conservatory, Chicago, IL; Missouri Botanical Garden, St.
Louis, MI
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Vive l'amour!" Palais Bénédictine, Fécamp,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: L'œuvre graphique," Espace Jean Tinguely - Niki
de Saint Phalle, Fribourg, Switzerland
"Dreams of Midsummer: Works of Niki de Saint Phalle," Macao Museum of
Art, Macao, Republic of China. Traveled to Musée National d'Art
Contemporain de Corée, Seoul, Korea as "Niki de Saint Phalle";
National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan as "The World and
Fantasy of Niki de Saint Phalle"; National Taiwan Museum of
Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan as "The World and Fantasy of Niki
de Saint Phalle"
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Sculpture," Nohra Haime Gallery, New York
2007 "Tarot-Garten Niki de Saint Phalle - Photographien," Galerie im Turm
der Kurfürstlichen Burg zu Eltville, Eltville, Germany
"Niki de Saint Phalle chez Deyrolle: Curosités naturelles," Galerie
Deyrolle, Paris
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Fischerplatz Galerie, Ulm
"Niki in the Garden," Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago, IL
2007-08 "Niki de Saint Phalle: A Spiritual Path," California Center for the
Arts, Escondido, CA
2008 "Niki de Saint Phalle," Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, England
"Hommage à Niki de Saint Phalle: Le Jardin des Tarots," La Coupole,
Paris, France
"Niki in the Garden," Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO
"Wunderkammer: Figur und Raum," Sprengel Museum, Hannover,
"WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution," Long Island City, NY
"Louis Armostrong," Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
"Niki de Saint Phalle: A Spiritual Path," California Center for the
Arts, Escondido, CA
"Niki & Jean: Kunst und Liebe," Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany
2008-09 "The Mouse House: Works from the Olga Hirshhorn Collection,"
Naples Museum of Art, Naples, FL
"Les boîtes à secrets de Niki," Musée en Herbe, Paris
2009 "Children's Exhibition: Les Boîtes à Secrets de Niki," La Vallée de la
Jeunesse, Lausanne, Switzerland
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Joie de Vivre - Alegria de Viver," Fundação
Eugénio de Almeida, Évora, Portugal
"Innovations in the Third Dimension: Sculpture of Our Time," Bruce
Museum, Greenwich, CT
"Children's Exhibition: Les Boîtes à Secrets de Niki," Musée en Herbe,
Paris, France
"WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution," Vancouver Art Gallery,
Vancouver, BC
"The Mouse House: Works from the Olga Hirshhorn Collection," Naples
Museum of Art, Naples, FL
2009-10 "Le scatole dei segreti di Niki de Saint Phalle," Museo in Erba,
Bellinzona, Switzerland
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Fondazione Roma Museo, Rome, Italy
2010 "Niki de Saint Phalle," The Armory Modern, Nohra Haime Gallery,
New York
"Niki de Saint Phalle," Château de Malbrouck, Metz, France
"Niki de Saint Phalle (outdoor sculpture installation)," National
Museum of Women in the Arts, Washigton, DC
"Niki de Saint Phalle & Jean Tinguely: Lifetime of Art Together and
Apart," Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC
2010-11 "Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968," Brooklyn
Museum, NY
2011 "Niki de Saint Phalle, Outside-In," SCHUNCK Glaspaleis, Heerlen,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Fairytales - Dreams - Myths," Kunsthalle Würth
Schwäbisch Hall, Künzelsau, Germany
"Animal," Espace Jean Tinguely-Niki de Saint Phalle, Fribourg,
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Play with me," Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch
Hall, Künzelsau, Germany
"Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology," Bechtler Museum of
Modern Art, Charlotte, NC
"Niki de Saint Phalle: A Retrospective Exhibition 1960-2004," Nohra
Haime Gallery, New York


Bonetti, David. "A Transforming Life: From Model to 'Nanas'," St. Louis Post Dispatch, April 27, 2008.
Brown, Stephen. "The Brooklyn Museum's New Feminist Art Show is a Swift Kick in the Crotch," The Brooklyn Paper, October 14, 2010.
Hare, Kristen. "Cavi and the Giant Skull," St. Louis Beacon, April 22, 2008.
Hare, Kristen. "Niki Sculptures Take Root at the Garden," St. Louis Beacon, April 23, 2008.
Johnson, Ken. "Before the Rebellion, Playful Pop Art Novelty," The New York Times, October 14, 2010.
Lupo, Jackie. "Niki and Jean Together Again," Carolina Weekly, February 12, 2010.
Mackeprang-Meyer, Friederike. "Gottorf zeigt dralle Frauenfiguren," Uetersener Nachrichten, March 5, 2009.
"Naples Museum Shows Olga Hirshhorn's 'The Mouse House',", January 6, 2009.
"Niki in the Garden: Audio Slide Show," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 27, 2008, video with narration by Marcelo Zitelli.
"Weiblich à la Niki de Saint Phalle,", March 5, 2009.

Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art
French painter, sculptor, graphic artist and film-maker, Niki de Saint Phalle was one of the great entertainers of Modern Art.  Born near Paris, France as Catherine Marie-Agnes Fal de Saint Phalle on October 29, 1930 to a French father and an American mother, she was raised in New York City where the family moved in 1933 after being financially wiped out during the stock exchange collapse

Niki, as she was preferred to be known, was expelled from a convent school for painting the fig leaves on the school statues bright red.  Her headmistress suggested that the young girl either leave school or get psychiatric treatment.  She then attended public schools and graduated in 1947, having immersed herself in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare,  and Greek tragedies.  She also wrote her first plays and poems.

In 1948-49, she worked as a fashion model and appeared in Vogue Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Elle and was on the cover of Life Magazine.  Then age 18, she eloped with Harry Matthews, a young US Marine.  At the behest of their parents, the young couple eventually married in the church and then settled in Cambridge, MA where Niki produced her first oils and gouaches. In April 1951, their daughter, Laura, was born.

Niki, Harry and Laura left the States and moved to Paris in 1952 where Harry Matthews followed his dreams of becoming a music conductor while Niki studied drama.  The family spent the summer months in the South of France, Spain and Italy where they frequented museums and cathedrals.  Niki was impressed by the idea that a cathedral is the result of a 'collective ideal'—this thought would impact her art later on.

After suffering a nervous breakdown, Niki gave up acting and decided to become a full-time artist.  She was introduced to American painter Hugh Weiss who would tutor her for five years and encouraged her to retain her self-taught style.  In 1954 the family moved to Mallorca, Spain where Niki discovered the works of Antonio Gaudi.  She was captivated by Park Güell—Gaudi's sculpture garden and aspired to create a garden of her own one day.

In Paris, Niki and Harry often visited the Louvre and other museums where she discovered the work of Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau. Niki met artist Jean Tinguely and his wife in 1956 in what would become a lifelong collaborative relationship.  She began her first sculptures, assisted by Tinguely, and was introduced to works by American artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollack.

After separating from her husband, Niki moved in with the now divorced Tinguely at the end of 1960, and continued her artistic experiments in assemblages and target pictures.  She organized 'shootings' in 1961-1963 where her canvasses were incorporated with exploding paint containers, which she shot to splatter their contents, before a crowd of Avant Garde supporters.  The resulting canvases were known as 'shooting paintings.' As part of the celebrations honoring Surrealist artist Salvador Dali, Niki and Tinguely created a life size bull made of plaster & paper which exploded during the fireworks display.

In October 1961 she took part in 'The Art of Assemblage' exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Between June-September of that year, more than 50 international magazines carried reports on Niki de Saint Phalle's artworks.  She received several worldwide art commissions, including the massive sculpture Hon (Swedish for 'she') at the Stockholm Modern Art Museum.  Visitors entered the walk-in sculpture through the vagina of a 28 meter long reclining woman.  Once inside, visitors could, among other things, get milk from a bar in one of the breasts and watch Greta Garbo movies.

At the suggestion of her gallery agent Alexandre Iolas, Niki created her first graphic prints in 1965.  She incorporated her 'Nanas'—voluptuous archetypal female figures inspired by a friend's pregnant form along with fantastical imagery of snakes, moons, flowers, mythical figures and animals into her graphic works.  Niki and Jean Tinguely married in 1971, and the couple worked from their home—an old country inn outside of Paris. They separated two years after marrying, but remained good friends and collaborators.

Niki's dream of a sculpture garden came to fruition as a friend donated land in Tuscany.  The garden, called 'Giardino dei Tarocchi', contains massive sculptures of the symbols found on Tarot cards, and was begun in 1979, taking more than twenty years to complete.  It was largely funded by the sale of Niki's perfume line.

For health reasons, in 1994, Niki moved to La Jolla, California, where she lived for next eight years.  She established a studio where she worked with mirrors, glass, and stones, which she increasingly used in her sculptures instead of paint. 'Queen Califia's Magical Circle Sculpture Garden' was begun in Escondido, California in 2000.  She drew much of its imagery from her interpretations of early California history, myth, and legend, Native Americans & Meso-American culture, and the study of indigenous plant and wildlife.  That year Niki was awarded the 12th Praemium Imperial Prize in Japan, considered to be the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the art world.

Niki de Saint Phalle died on May 21, 2002 at the age of 71 in La Jolla, CA.  Her granddaughter, Bloum Cardenas, now oversees Niki's works in progress and established The Niki Charitable Art Foundation, a nonprofit established to promote and protect Niki's artistic legacy.

Life…is never the way one imagines it. It surprises you, it amazes you, and it makes you laugh or cry when you don't expect it."

Select Museum Collections:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
Walker Art Center, MN
San Diego Museum of Art, CA
National Museum of Women in the Arts, DC
Tate Gallery, London
Musee Picasso, Antibes, France
Musee Nationale d'Art Moderne, Paris, France
Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany

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Niki de Saint Phalle - Femme et artiste - Artracaille 08-12-2009

About  Niki de Saint Phalle

Born:  1930 - Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died:   2002 - San Diego, California
Known for:  "nana" female figure sculptures, paintings, assemblages

Essays referring to
Niki de Saint Phalle

Women Artists