On Saint Phalle’s radical art as social and institutional critique
Niki de Saint Phalle’s sensualNanas—colorful, buxom female figures—laid the foundation for her international success beyond the art world. But the self-taught artist’s creative spectrum is much broader, and her unconventional oeuvre—ranging from painting and drawing to assemblages, performances, theater, film and architecture—is more subversive and critical of society than is widely assumed. Based in part on her efforts to process her own experiences, Saint Phalle addressed social and political issues, critically questioning institutions and role models in ways that are as relevant today as they have ever been. This publication sheds new light on the artist’s exceptional personality and uncovers an oeuvre that is always surprising and eccentric, emotional, dark and brutal, humorous and cheerful.
Niki de Saint Phalle(1930–2002) was born near Paris and moved to the US in 1933. During her teen years, Saint Phalle was a fashion model and appeared on the cover ofLifein 1949 and, three years later, on the cover ofFrench Vogue. At 18 Saint Phalle eloped with author Harry Mathews and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later to Paris, where she exhibited at the Alexander Iolas Gallery. In 1971 Saint Phalle married Jean Tinguely, and throughout that decade created the public sculptures and parks for which she became celebrated. Saint Phalle died of emphysema in California in May 2002.