Exhibitions Museums France

Much more than just a pretty face

An exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris aims to give a fuller picture of Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle, Saint Sébastien/Portrait of my lover, 1960-61. Photo: © Niki Charitable Art Foundation

The Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle will be the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris, the first devoted to her work in more than 20 years. More than 200 works, including paintings, sculptures, prints and films, are to go on display (17 September-2 February 2015) along with unseen archival material and videos.

The last time her work was explored in such depth was in 1993, at a retrospective at the Musée de l’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. This show aims to give a fuller picture of the artist, who kept producing new work until her death in 2002. “Niki de Saint Phalle’s famous Tarot Garden, her largest public art project, had not yet opened” at the time of the 1993 show, says Camille Morineau, the show’s curator. “So we will be exploring that in some detail, as well as her assemblages from the late 1950s, which constitute her first body of work but were also absent from the show in 1993.”

Saint Phalle achieved fame during her lifetime with a series of provocative, and sometimes violent works, such as her “Shooting Pictures” from the early 1960s, which she made by shooting at paint-filled pockets of plaster with a rifle. She is perhaps best-known to the general public for her large-scale, colourful sculptures of the female form, however these actually make up only a small part of her overall body of work.

Saint Phalle was accepted by both the New Realism artistic movement in France, and the Neo Dada and Pop Art circles in the US—no mean feat at the time for a self-taught woman artist. The show will therefore draw attention to her role as a multicultural, multifaceted and socio-politically engaged artist. “Saint Phalle was one of the first, if not the first artist to openly address her feminist ideology in her work. She was also very preoccupied with the political landscape of her time, the Cold War and the war in Algeria, as well as civil rights in the US. It’s easier to see women as symbols of joy or of comfort, rather than holding a gun and engaging with politics,” says Morineau, who believes Saint Phalle was ultimately the victim of sexism within the art world, “but at the same time the colourful and decorative aspects of her work should not be ignored.”

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Comments

5 Sep 14
13:9 CET

LEBLASE, LONDON

@ETISO: how would you know? No one, as yet, has seen the show but you somehow can tell it "reiterates"?. The way you write sounds like you're some kind of old macho unable to grasp the mere fact that a woman can be an artist on her own, and not need a man to guide her?

5 Sep 14
13:11 CET

ETISO, NYC

Not a feminist, Niki often denied the incest story. The show is mostly about money.

7 Sep 14
12:33 CET

LEBLASE, LONDON

@ETISO: how would you know? No one, as yet, has seen the show but you somehow can tell it "reiterates"?. The way you write sounds like you're some kind of old macho unable to grasp the mere fact that a woman can be an artist on her own, and not need a man to guide her?

7 Sep 14
12:33 CET

ETISO, NYC

Niki was not a feminist. She often story of incest she also denied- all these are myths repeated by the exhibition organizers and her foundation which are only interested in making money. The show is about making money,

4 Sep 14
1:41 CET

LEBLASE, LONDON

@ETISO: how would you know? No one, as yet, has seen the show but you somehow can tell it "reiterates"?. The way you write sounds like you're some kind of old macho unable to grasp the mere fact that a woman can be an artist on her own, and not need a man to guide her?

2 Sep 14
14:43 CET

ETISO, NEW YORK

Show unfortunately, reiterates many of the myths and untruths around Saint Phalle's work not giving Tinguely whose influence was huge in her early work, his due as her mentor in her early works. She was a sex-symbol and embraced the role of a chick-with a gun. The French have embraced the artist as a national figure which is also strange considering she renounced her French citizenship and became Swiss (to not pay taxes) and later an American citizen- and basically rejected France - a country she seemed to dislike.

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