Niki de Saint Phalle


Niki is best known for her oversized figures which embrace contradictory qualities such as good and evil, modern and primitive, sacred and profane, play and terror. Her exaggerated “earth mother” sculptures, the Nanas, playfully explore the ancient of feminine deities while celebrating modern feminism’s efforts to reconsider and revalue the woman’s body. In recent years de Saint Phalle has made monsters and beasts into architectural forms for playgrounds and schools. These works demonstrate her deep interest in architects like Antoni Gaudi, who made organic fluid buildings incorporating wild fantasies and everyday objects. Her collaboration with the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely on a landmark fountain for the plaza of the Centre Pompidou in Paris is world-renowned. The marketing success of Niki de Saint Phalle perfume allowed the artist to fulfill a dream to create a park in northern Italy full of giant sculptures based on Tarot cards, many of can be entered and one of which is a functional residence.

Although de Saint Phalle lived near Paris for more than twenty years, her artistic formation has been as much North American as European. She lived in New York from 1933 to 1951 and again in the 1960s when she was prominent in the development of “happenings” and other artistic efforts involving the integration of art and life. She lived and worked in La Jolla from 1992 until her death in 2002.