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Exhibition of artworks by the French-American sculptor and painter Niki de Saint Phalle at Vicky David Gallery
Installation view of the exhibition of works by Niki de Saint Phalle at Vicky David Gallery. Photo: Courtesy Vicky David Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Vicky David Gallery announces an exhibition of artworks by the French-American sculptor, painter and filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle.

A key figure of the New Realism movement, Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 - 2002) scored contemporary art with her colorful and round shape works.

Niki de Saint Phalle spends her childhood and adolescence between France and the United States. A victim of incest when she was eleven, made her a turbulent teenager with heightened sensitivity. Early on, she rebels against traditional morals of the middle class, from which she is from and denounces the distribution of roles. At 18 she elopes and after the birth of her two children, Niki sinks into a severe nervous breakdown. She finds refuge in painting and becomes part of the Parisian artistic society that highly encourages her.

In the 1960s, she draws attention to herself with the “Shooting Paintings”, performances during which she invites viewers to shoot (with a rifle) at bags of paint hidden behind a complex assembly of plaster and common objects. The shoot-outs are a therapy for Niki: pulling the paint is like drawing on society and its injustices. The famous art critic Pierre Restany is enthused by these performances and decides to adopt her among the New Realists.

Niki shares now her life and work with Jean Tinguely. Her work takes a more feminine turn with the “Nanas”, her famous sculptures of voluptuous women in bright colors made of mesh, polyester and paper mache, for which she will obtain international recognition. The “Nanas" explore the ambiguity of the status of women and participate in the struggle for equal rights.

In 1966 Niki and Tinguely (to whom to she later married in 1971) make a 25 meter “Nana” for the Modern Museum of Stockholm. Following this exhibition, public commissions of “Nanas” flow and Niki develops architectural projects. She also creates many sets for ballets and plays and is involved in filmmaking. She breaks the hierarchy between the arts.

In the 1980’s, her work culminates with a major retrospective organized at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The years that followed are marked by loneliness and depression. Niki suffers from lung problems due to the inhalation of the vapors and dust from the polyester she used in the realization of her sculptures. While she is dedicated to the achievement of the sculpture park in Tuscany (a homage to Gaudí), she produces several fascinating pieces of decorative art, but the lung disease continues to develop.

Niki’s mystical and fabulous world refers to different cultures. Fascinated with primitive arts and legendary myths, she reinvests them by giving them a raw but poetic tone. Nature and animal kingdom are omnipresent in her work. Snakes, dogs, dragons and birds make their appearance, both omens of danger or temptation and protectors. The art of Niki is shaped by painful experiences. Her sculptures, fueled with the exaltation of the joy of life are a way to externalize her anxieties. Behind the apparent simplicity of her work are hidden cathartic powers.

Since 1968, many major exhibitions have been devoted to her, including retrospectives in several cities. Her work is exhibited in major museums and the subject of public installations throughout the world. Among the major installations are the "Stravinsky Fountain" in Paris, realized with Jean Tinguely and made in honor of the eponymous Russian composer (1983), in which naive figures meet the engineering, the "Tarot Garden" in Tuscany or the "La Grotte" of the Great Herrenhäuser garden in Hanover.

In 2002, she received the Praemium Imperiale, considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in the arts.

Niki de Saint Phalle passed away in May 2002, in La Jolla, California, at the age of 71. The world mourned the loss of a courageous woman who fought all her life for freedom and who used her art to bring joy and color to the world.

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