Niki de Saint Phalle

Mixed French
(Neuilly-Sur-Seine, France, 1930 - 5/21/2002, La Jolla, California, USA)
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In the 1930's she and her family moved to New York.
active in San Diego 1993-2002
Obituary from Artworld, July 2002, pp. 110:
Niki de Saint Phalle, 1930-2002
Niki de Saint Phalle, French-American artist, 71, died May 21 of pulmonary failure in La Jolla, Calif., where she had been living since 1994. De Saint Phalle first came to attention in 1961, when she began to exhibit her work in Paris alongside the Nouveaux Réalistes. Violence and interactivity marked her early art:  viewers were invited to throw darts at her "Target" paintings, while her "Shooting" paintings and assemblages were designed to be shot at with rifles and pistols. As well-aimed bullets punctured plastic bags and cans of paint, the all-white works were transformed into multicolored reliefs.

In the mid-'60s, de Saint Phalle left behind both shooting and assemblage to create what would become her signature works, the "Nanas," brightly painted sculptures of bulbous, acrobatic, fecund-looking female figures. Widely exhibited in the late 1960s, the "nanas" were effective icons for the period's exuberant eroticism and burgeoning feminism. At Stockholm's Moderna Museet in 1966, de Saint Phalle created "Hon" ("she" in Swedish), a supine, pregnant "Nana" that was 90 feet long, 27 feet wide and 18 feet high. After entering the sculpture through a vaginal portal, visitors found a small movie theater, a milk bar, a planetarium, an aquarium and an art gallery filled with forgeries of modern masterpieces. This massive project (created in collaboration with Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely, who was de Saint Phalle's companion and, after 1971, husband) led the artist into the realm of public sculpture.

From 1978 on, de Saint Phalle devoted most of her time to creating the Tarot Garden, a large-scale sculputure garden in Garavicchio, Tuscany, which opened to the public in 1998. Based on tarot-card motifs, and registering the influence of de Saint Phalle's two artistic heroes, Antonio Gaudi and the Facteur Cheval, the 22 colorful, tile- and mirror-covered sculptures depict fantastical figures and creatures that seem to emerge from the surrounding landscape.

Among de Saint Phalle's other large-scale works is a playground in Jerusalem (1972), a trio of outdoor Nana sculptures in Hannover, Germany (1974), and the Stravinsky Fountain (in collaboration with Tinguely) next to the Centre Pompidou, Paris (1983). She had retrospectives at the Centre Pompidou (1980), and Nassau County Museum of Fine Arts (1987), and the Kunst und Austellunghalle, Bonn (1992). In 1994, the Niki Museum opened in Nasu, Japan. In 2000, she won the Praemium Imperiale Award, and that same year, donated a large number of her works to the Sprengel Musuem in Hannover. This year, the city of Nice is honoring de Saint Phalle with a retrospective at the Musée d'Art  Moderne et d'Art Contemporain [to Oct. 29], to which she had also made a major donation; accompanying the retrospective is an installation of six of her recent large sculptures along the waterfront [to Oct. 27].

Always interested in collaborative projects and in expanding the audience for visual art, de Saint Phalle designed sets for theater and dance performances, worked on and acted in several films, and created a successful perfume (the profits from which helped fund the Tarot Garden). In 1986, she coauthored, with physician Silvio Barandun, an illustrated book titled AIDS:  You Can't Catch It Holding Hands, and recently published two volumes of memiors.