Niki de Saint Phalle 1930 –2002


"Niki inside out"

Video of the Exhibition in Chicago

I saved one of my favorite artists til the end of the year and the children did her proud. Nothing inspires me more than someone who rises above enormous difficulties to do something positive in in the world. Such a person was Niki de Saint Phalle. She was a sculptor, painter, filmmaker, civil rights advocate, Aids activist and Feminist. She is most widely known for her monumental sculptures. She had a traumatic childhood and education, out of which she began creating art in a naive, experimental style. She had no formal training in art, but as an “outsider artist” went on to collaborate with and inspire many contemporary artists, writers, and composers to become one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century.

Believing that art should be available to everyone and free from galleries and museums, she primarily designed large-scale outdoor fountains, sculptures and parks. She was well known in Europe, but her work was little-seen in the US, until her final years in San Diego. A prominent critic said: "The French-born, American-raised artist is one of the most significant female and feminist artists of the 20th century, and one of the few to receive recognition in the male-dominated art world during her lifetime".

In 1963, she created a series of sculptures protesting stereotypical societal roles for women, which would develop into her best-known and most prolific series of sculptures, “ The Nanas”. Over time, these figures became more joyful, whimsical, colorful, and larger in scale. Saint Phalle began to portray archetypal female figures with a more optimistic view of the position of women in society. She continually disrupted long-held conventions in art, and her unique approach to her identity and society at large made her an early and important voice to both the feminist movement and the development of early conceptual art. She championed the female form in all shapes and colors inspiring fashion, art and generations of women artists.

With her Theme Parks, she realized some of the most ambitious, interactive sculptural environments ever produced, providing the stepping stones for many other artists that followed her use of new materials and that bridged the gap between painting and sculpture. Saint Phalle used composite fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic decorated with multiple bright-colored acrylic or polyester paints. These innovative materials enabled the construction of colorful, large-scale sculptures with new ease and fluidity of form..As a result she suffered from multiple chronic health problems attributed to repeated exposure to glass fibers and petrochemical fumes from the experimental materials she had used in her pioneering artworks, but she continued to create prolifically until the end of her life.


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