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Niki de Saint Phalle

French-American Painter, Sculptor, Performance, Conceptual, and Installation Artist

Niki de Saint Phalle Photo

Born: October 29, 1930 - Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France

Died: May 21, 2002 - La Jolla, California, USA

"I'm following a course that was chosen for me, following a pressing need to show that a woman can work on a monumental scale."

Niki de Saint Phalle Signature

Summary of Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle paired bold, jubilant, and cartoonish feminine forms with dark and disturbing material in her multifaceted artistic career. Throughout, she continually disrupted long-held conventions in art, and her iconoclastic 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. Unlike many of her contemporaries who prioritized the idea behind the work of art rather than the aesthetic demonstration of the idea, Saint Phalle's pieces were highly expressive, visually bold, and often playful - a style that celebrated aesthetics instead of interrogating its structures and conventions. She realized some of the most ambitious, immersive sculptural environments of the 20th century, and also made intensely personal, inward-looking work that reflected on her inner life and relationships. Saint Phalle's broad influence is marked by the variety of contemporary cultural identities and communities that now 'claim' her as their own, including feminist, queer, and racial empowerment movements.

Key Ideas

Saint Phalle's unique brand of feminist art expressed both angst and jouissance in full and equal measure, and explored the complex and confounding ways in which culture and biology co-construct the female experience.
Her groundbreaking Nanas works, the most prolific series in her career, linked the social issues of the universal empowerment of women with the politics of the Black Rights movement in the United States.
Her vibrant, rotund, colorful female figures contrasted heavily with the stark, monumental, and often masculine styles of her contemporaries, including the work of other feminist architects such as Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson.
Her art practice was intensely dialogic and collaborative in a time when the brand of the individual artist 'genius' was most heavily promoted in the art world. Her Tirs (Shooting) painting incorporated the participation of the public, as well as some of the 20th century's most influential artists, including Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
Niki de Saint Phalle Life and Legacy

After years of creating innovative art de Saint Phalle came upon a signature visual language that can now be found in various location in the world. For example, her work (created along with her partner Jean Tinguely) enlivens The Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, which is located just to the side of the Center Pompidou.

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