Biografia of Niki de Saint Phalle


Biografia of Niki de Saint Phalle


1930
Catherine Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine on 29th October. She is the second of five children born to Jeanne Jacqueline (maiden name Harper) and André Marie Fal de Saint Phalle. Her father is one of seven brothers sharing ownership of a family banking house. When the stock market collapses in 1929, he loses both his business and his own fortune. Marie-Agnès is sent to live with her paternal grandparents in the French countryside, where she spends the next three years.


1933
Marie-Agnès is reunited with her parents in Greenwich, Connecticut. She often spends her summer holidays in the Oise region in France, owned by her maternal grandfather.

1937
The family moves into an apartment on East 88th Street in New York. Marie-Agnès, now known as Niki, attends the Convent of the Sacred Heart on East 91st Street.


1941
Niki is expelled from the Convent School. She is sent to Princeton, New Jersey, to live with her maternal grandparents who have left France in the wake of the Second World War. She attends the local public school.


1942
Niki de Saint Phalle returns to live with her parents who enrol her in Brearly School in New York. An avid reader, she is especially fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare’s plays and Greek tragedy. She takes part in school performances and writes her first plays and poems, among which is ‘La Peste’ (‘The Plague’).


1944
Niki applies bright red paint over the vine leaves that cover the private parts of the sculpted Greek figures adorning the grounds of Brearly School. Her headmistress orders that she either undergo psychiatric treatment or leave the school. Her parents send her to another religious school in Suffern, New York.


1947
Niki graduates from Oldfield High School, Maryland.


1948 – 1949
Incidentally she starts a career as a model. Photographs of her appear in ‘Vogue’, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ and on the cover of ‘Life Magazine’. She is only 18 when she elopes with Harry Mathews. On 6th June 1949, they get married civilly in New York.


1950
In February, upon Niki’s mother’s insistent request, Niki and Harry are wed in the French Church in New York. A few months later, they moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harry studies music at Harvard University while Niki produces her first oils and gouaches.


1951
On April 23, their daughter Laura is born.


1952
Niki, Harry and Laura leave Massachusetts and move to Paris. Harry Mathews, who dreams of becoming a conductor, furthers his study at I’Ecole Normale de Musique (Normal School of Music). Niki enrols in drama school. They both actively take care of their daughter. In the summer months, the family travels to the South of France as well as Spain and Italy, visiting every art museum and cathedral along their way. Niki was profoundly impressed by the idea of the cathedral as a ‘collective ideal’ – an idea that later she will use on her own works.

1953
Niki suffers a severe nervous breakdown, and receives treatment in a psychiatric hospital in Nice. Finding that painting is helping her heal, she decides to give up acting and become an artist instead. Around the same time, Harry Mathews abandons his music studies and sets out to write his first novel.


1954
In March, the couple returns to Paris, where they share a house with Anthony Bonner, an American jazz musician and composer. Niki is introduced to the American painter Hugh Weiss, who will become her mentor over the next five years and persist in encouraging her to retain her spontaneity as an autodidactic artist. In September, Niki, Harry and Laura move to Deyá on the island of Mallorca, off the Spanish coast.


1955
Their son Philip is born on 1st May. Niki visits Madrid and Barcelona, where she discovers the work of Gaudí. These visits, especially the one she makes to Güell Park, change her life and give her the idea of one day creating her own sculpture garden.


1956 – 1958
The Mathews spend several months in the French Alps. Niki produces a series of oil paintings and, in April 1956, holds her first exhibition in the small mountain town of St. Gallen. In August, the family returns to Paris.

Harry and Niki make frequent visits to the Louvre and other Parisian museums. Niki discovers the work of Paul Klee, Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso and the Douanier Rousseau. Through Harry, who now intents to pursue a literary career, Niki also becomes acquainted with several contemporary writers, including John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch.

In 1956, Niki meets the artist Jean Tinguely and his wife, Eva Aeppli. When she later attempts to make her first sculpture, Niki asks Jean Tinguely to build an iron structure that she will coat with plaster.

Niki visits Joseph Ferdinand Cheval’s Palais Idéal (Ideal Palace) in the small French town.


1959
Niki discovers American artists Jasper Johns, Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (the Municipal Modern Art Museum of Paris).


1960
Niki and Harry separate. He moves to a new apartment with their children. She remains in the old apartment and continues her artistic experiments, producing assemblages in plaster and the ‘target pictures’. At the end of the year, she and Jean Tinguely move to Impasse Ronsin (a dead end street), where they share the same studio space and live surrounded by other artists. Jean Tinguely introduces her to Pontus Hulten, the director of the Moderna Museet (Modern Museum) in Stockholm, who, over the next few years, will invite her to take part in several important exhibitions and as well as acquire some of her works for the Moderna Museet.


1961
In February, Niki takes part in a group exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris entitled ‘Comparison: Peinture – Sculpture’, in which she presents ‘Portrait of My Lover’, an assemblage at the top of which stands a shooting target.

On 12th February, she organises the first of more than twelve ‘shooting sessions’ to be carried out between 1961 and 1963. The resulting works become known as ‘shooting paintings’. Among the spectators of this event are several members of the New Realism movement. Its spokesperson and standard-bearer, Pierre Restany, is so enthused that he immediately invites Niki to join the group, whose then all-male membership includes Arman, César, Christo, Gérard Deschamps, François Dufrêne, Raymond Raysse, Mimmo Rotella, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, and Jacques Villeglé.

In March, Niki takes part in an exhibition, ‘Bewogen Beweging’ (‘Art in Motion’), organised by Ponthus Hulten and held at the Stedelijk Museum (Urban Museum) in Amsterdam. The exhibition is later shown by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek, Denmark.

On 20th June, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely participate in a concert-happening entitled ‘Variations II’, orchestrated by John Cage and held at the American Embassy in Paris. While David Tudor plays music by John Cage on the piano, and the artists create their works of art on stage.

Pierre Restany organises Niki’s first solo exhibition entitled ‘Feu à volonté’ (‘Fire at Will’) at the Galerie J run by his wife Jeannine de Goldschmidt. The visitors are invited to shoot at the works. Leo Castelli, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and the entire group of New Realists attend the opening on 30th June; the exhibition lasts until 12th July. Rauschenberg buys a ‘Tir’ (‘Shooting Painting’).

Pierre Restany puts together the ‘New Realists Festival’ at the Galerie Muratore in Nice. For the official opening on the evening of 13th July, Niki de Saint Phalle holds a shooting at the Abbaye Roseland, in which all the New Realists take part.

Marcel Duchamp introduces Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely to Salvador Dalí. During a trip to Spain in August, Dalí invites them to build a ‘Toro de Fuego’ (‘Bull of Fire’) for a bullfight in Figueras. Niki and Jean create a ritual bull – a life-size animal made with plaster and paper and filled with fireworks which, in keeping with the tradition, enters the ring at the end of the bullfight and explodes in a loud display of light and colours.

In October, Niki takes part in ‘The Art of Assemblage’, an exhibition presented by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition subsequently travels to the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art and the San Francisco Museum of Art. Between June and September, more than fifty international newspaper and magazines carry reports on Niki de Saint Phalle’s work. In the fall, Larry Rivers and his wife befriends Niki and Jean.


1962
In February, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely travel to California and visit Simon Rodia’s Watts Tower near Los Angeles. Niki assists a CBS crew in the filming of a happening by Jean Tinguely, ‘Study for an End of the World Number 2’, in the Nevada Desert.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, she stages her first two ‘shootings’ in America: one at a beach house in Malibu on 4th March, the other in the hills overlooking Malibu.

From there, Niki and Jean Tinguely go to Mexico.

On 4th May, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, and several other artists take part in a performance of Kenneth Koch’s play, ‘Construction of Boston’ in New York. Including in the performance is a shooting of a ‘Vénus de Milo’ at the hands of Niki. Back in Europe, Niki presents ten ‘Tirs’ (‘Shooting Paintings’) and altars in Paris. Among the visitors is Alexandre Iolas, who proposes her an exhibition at his New York Gallery in October. This marks the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between the artist and the gallerist. Throughout the ten years, Iolas provides her with financial support, organises numerous exhibitions of her work, and acts as her mentor – thus introduces her to such towering Surrealist figures as Victor Brauner, Max Ernst and René Magritte.

Yves Klein dies suddenly on 6th June.

From 30th August to 30th September, Niki takes part in ‘Dylaby’ (‘Dynamic Labyrinth’), a large-scale installation at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, along with Robert Rauschenberg, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt.

On 15th October, Niki opens her first solo exhibition in New York at the Alexandre Iolas Gallery, which lasts until 3rd November. For the occasion, Niki unveils her ‘Homage to Le Facteur Cheval’, a complex assemblage which the public is invited to shoot and ten other pieces are included in the show.


1963
In May, Virginia Dwan organises a shooting event at her gallery in Los Angeles, in which Niki takes aim at a monumental ‘King Kong’. The shooting piece is subsequently acquired by the Moderna Museet of Stockholm. ‘King Kong’ is one of the first monsters that have place on Niki’s art world and many others will follow.

Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely buy a former hotel, L’Augerge du Cheval Blanc (The White Horse Lodging House), at Soisy-sur-Ecole. There, Niki begins working on a series of sculptures denouncing the roles which society has cast in women: child bearers, devouring mothers, witches and prostitutes.


1964
Niki spends the summer near Lausanne, where she works on several large heads made of wool and papier-mâché, her ‘Mariées’ (‘Brides’), and a piece entitled ‘St. George and the Dragon’.

In September, her first solo exhibition in London opens at the Hanover Gallery.

In October, she travels to New York where she stays and works in a room of Chelsea Hotel, which is transformed into a studio. She creates a series of sculptures-collages such as ‘Nanas’, ‘Hearts’ and ‘Dragons’.


1965
Niki creates her first ‘Nanas’ in cloth and wool in April.

In August, a twelve-page article on Niki appears in the Swiss art magazine ‘DU’.

In September, Niki presents her ‘Nanas’ in a solo exhibition at the Galerie Alexandre Iolas in Paris, which concurrently publishes the first book on Niki de Saint Phalle, with a handwritten text by the artist as well as some drawings of ‘Nanas’.

At Iolas’s suggestion, Niki begins to produce printed materials to promote her exhibitions, including invitations, posters, brochures, and others.

She also begins her first silkscreen prints.


1966
In collaboration with Martial Raysse and Jean Tinguely, Niki designs the stage sets and costumes for Roland Petit’s ballet, ‘Eloge de La Folie’ (‘Praise of the Madness’), performed in March at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris.

In June, Niki, Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt are invited by Pontus Hulten to install a large sculpture in the entrance hall of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm for which he is a curator. The three artists settle for a monumental reclining Nana, 28 metres in length, 9 metres in width, and 6 metres in height, which they name ‘Hon’ (‘she’ in Swedish).

While at work in Stockholm, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely meet the young Swiss artist Rico Weber, who helps them build ‘Hon’. This marks the beginning of a long period of collaboration during which Rico Weber will play the double role of assistance and colleague to Niki as well as to Jean Tinguely.

In October, Niki designs the sets and costumes for the ‘Lysistrata’ of Aristophane produced by Rainer von Diez at the Staatstheater in Kassel, Germany.


1967
Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely work on ‘Le Paradis Fantastique’ (‘The Fantastic Paradise’), a commission from the French government for the French Pavilion at Expos’67 in Montreal. ‘Le Paradis Fantastique’ consists of nine painted sculptures by Niki and six kinetic machines by Jean Tinguely. From Montreal, ‘Le Paradis Fantastique’ travels first to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and then to Central Park in New York where it remains on display for an entire year. It now stands as a permanent fixture in Stockholm, close to the Moderna Museet.

In August, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam opens an opportunity to Niki for her first retrospective exhibition entitled ‘Nana Power’. For the occasion, Niki creates her first ‘Nana Dream House’ and ‘Nana Fountain’; she also shows the plan of her first ‘Nana Town’.

The new works are made of polyester resin – a material with which Niki has just started to experiment with.


1968
In June, Niki de Saint Phalle’s first play, ‘ICH’, is performed in Kassel, Germany. Stage sets, costumes, and poster are all designed by Niki.

The Kunstverein für die Rheinlande Westfalen (the Art Association for Rheinlande Westfalen) in Düsseldorf, Germany, holds a show entitled ‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Werke 1962–1968’ (Niki de Saint Phalle: Works 1962–1968), which will subsequently travel to another German museum, the Kunstverein Hannover (Hanover Art Association).

In October, she presents her eighteen-piece wall relief, ‘Last Night I Had a Dream’, at the Galerie Alexandre Iolas in Paris.

She designs inflatable ‘Nanas’ to be manufactured and marketed in New York.

Toward the end of the year, Niki suffers respiratory troubles due to repeated exposure to the fume and dust of the polyester she henceforth uses almost exclusively for her sculptures.

She travels to Morocco.


1969
Following a visit to India, Niki begins on her first full-scale architecture project: three houses in the South of France for Rainer von Diez, which will be finished building in 1971. Their poetic name: ‘The Dream of the Bird’.

In Munich, Germany, different facets of Niki’s work are presented in a show entitled ‘Plastiken, Zeichmungen und Graphiken von Niki de Saint Phalle’ (‘Sculptures, Drawings and Graphics by Niki de Saint Phalle’).

The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York acquires Niki’s ‘Black Venus’ and, in April, includes it in an exhibition entitled ‘Contemporary American Sculpture, Selection 2’.

Meanwhile in Milly-la-Forêt she begins the building of ‘Le Cyclope’ (also known as ‘La Tête’, meaning ‘The Head’), a project initiated by Jean Tinguely in which several other artists, including Niki, collaborated.


1970
On 29th November, at the opening of the festival organised by Pierre Restany and Guido Le Noci in Milan to mark the tenth anniversary of the founding of the New Realism movement, Niki shoots at an altar assemblage.

A series of seventeen serigraphs by Niki is published in Paris under the title ‘Nana Power’.

Niki, accompanied by Jean Tinguely, makes her first visit to Egypt.


1971
On 13th July, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely get married in Soisy, upon which they leave for Morocco. On 10th August, Niki’s first grandchild is born on the island of Bali, Indonesia.

Niki designs her first pieces of jewelry.

At the end of the year, she begins working on the ‘Golem’, an architectural project for children in Rabinovitch Park in Jerusalem, completed the following year.


1972
Beginning in 1972, Niki starts working with Robert Haligon who will manufacture many of her large-scale sculptures and editions of the multiples. This long collaboration is later continued with Robert’s son, Gérard.

In July, she rents a castle near Grasse in the South of France, where she shoots the first version of ‘Daddy’, a film written and produced in association with Peter Whitehead. The film is shown in London in November.

The Galerie Bonnier in Geneva presents Niki’s early work in a show entitled ‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Niki avant les Nanas’ (‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Niki Before the Nanas’).

Niki visits Greece.


1973
In January, Niki produces a revised version of ‘Daddy’. New scenes are shot in Soisy and in New York; also, the original cast is expanded. The revised version premieres at the Lincoln Center in April, as part of the 11th New York Film Festival. Niki is commissioned to design the programme for the festival.

Niki designs a swimming pool for George Plouvier in Saint Tropez. In the Belgian town, she builds ‘Le Dragon’ – a playhouse for the children of Fabienne and Roger Nellens.


1974
Niki installs three gigantic Nanas in Hanover. They are given the names Caroline, Charlotte and Sophie in honour of the city’s three queens.

The Galerie Alexandre Iolas in Paris holds an exhibition of Niki’s architectural models.

A few months later in Baden-Baden, Germany, the Galerie Dr. Ernst Hauswedell presents various aspects of Niki’s work in an exhibition entitled ‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Skulpturen, Zeichnungen, Graphik, Ballon-Nanas’ (‘Nike de Saint Phalle: Sculptures, Designs, Graphics and Balloon Nanas’).

She suffers an abscess on one of her lungs caused by years of working with polyester, and must be hospitalised. She then enters a long period of convalescence. After a few weeks in Arizona, she goes to Saint Moritz, Switzerland. There, she is re-acquainted with Marella Agnelli whom she befriended in New York during the 1950s. Niki tells Marella of her dream of creating a sculpture garden. Marella’s brothers, Carlo and Nicola Caracciolo, give her a piece of land in Tuscany on which to realise her dream.


1975
Niki writes the screenplay for the film ‘Un rêve plus long que la nuit’ (‘A Dream Longer Than the Night’). Many of her artist friends are involved in the shooting. She designs several pieces of furniture for the sets. On the occasion of the Festival Europalia-France 1975, the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Fine Art Palace) in Brussels adorns its façade with pieces from the sets used in Niki’s film.


1976
Niki spends the entire year in the Swiss mountains, where she begins sketching her future sculpture garden.

The Museum Boymans van Beunigen in Rotterdam, Netherlands, holds an exhibition of Niki’s architectural projects under the title ‘Beelden, modellen en maquettes van Niki de Saint Phalle’ (‘Images, Shapes and Models by Niki de Saint Phalle’).

A show, ‘Niki de Saint Phalle Sculpturer’, takes place at the Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum in Aalborg, Denmark.

The Galerie Bonnier in Geneva organises an exhibition, ‘Niki de Saint Phalle: oeuvres récentes’ (‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Recent Works’).


1977
Niki designs the sets for the film ‘The Travelling Companion’, based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

She travels to Mexico and New Mexico, USA.

Ricardo Menon becomes her assistance – a role he will assume for the next ten years.


1978
Niki begins laying out her ‘Giardino dei Tarocchi’ (the ‘Tarot Garden’) on the estate of the Caracciolo brothers in the small town of Garavicchio in Tuscany, Italy. Fascinated by the figures and symbols associated with the Tarot cards, she begins working on a series of 22 monumental sculptures – a personal rendering of the Tarot characters.


1979
Niki spends most of her time in Tuscany, further outlining the Tarot Garden.

In March, she has her first show at the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Japan.

In New York, the Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer Gallery holds an exhibition of models and photographs of her architectural projects. The exhibition, ‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Monumental Projects, Maquettes and Photographs’, goes to four other museums in the U.S.A.

She creates a series of new sculptures named ‘Skinnies’.


1980
In April, Niki begins working on the first two sculptures for the Tarot Garden, ‘The Magician’ and ‘The High Priestess’.

Her sculpture ‘Le poète et sa muse’ (‘The Poet and His Muse’) is unveiled on the university campus of Ulm, Germany. The event coincides with the opening at the university gallery of an exhibition of her graphic work, which runs from May to July.

On 2nd July, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris opens a retrospective art exhibition of Niki’s work.

On 3rd July, Niki suffers her first attack of rheumatoid arthritis. The retrospective subsequently travels to several European museums, including the Wilhelm-Lehmbruck Museum der Stadt (Municipal Museum) in Duisburg and the Kunstmuseum in Hanover, Germany.

Yoko Masuda opens ‘Space Niki’ in Tokyo with the first of a series of exhibitions to be devoted to Niki de Saint Phalle’s work.

Niki produces her first polyester snake chairs, vases and lamps.


1981
Niki rents a small house near the ‘Tarot Garden’. She hires young people from the nearby town of Garavicchio to help her build the Garden. Jean Tinguely and his All Star Swiss Team, comprising Seppi Imhoff and Rico Weber, take on the task of welding the Tarot sculptures.

In the spring, she paints the exterior of a new twin-engine airplane, which participates in the first Trans-Atlantic race sponsored by the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation in Amsterdam.


1982
The American company, Jacqueline Cochran, invites Niki to create a new perfume. She uses the proceeds to finance the ‘Tarot Garden’. Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle collaborate on a fountain/sculpture composed of 15 pieces for the Igor Stravinsky Square, located next to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

The galleries in New York and in London show Niki’s ‘Skinnies’.

Work on the ‘Tarot Garden’ progress. Succeeding to Jean Tinguely, the Dutch artist Doc Winsen builds the metallic frames for the Tarot sculptures. By the end of the year, cement is being poured.


1983
The Stuart Collection commissions a sculpture for the campus of the University of California at San Diego, the future ‘Sun God’.

Niki moves into an apartment at in the ‘Tarot Garden’, designed in the shape of a sphinx and called it ‘Empress’, which will be her studio and home for the next seven years.

She decides to use ceramics for the Tarot sculptures, in addition to mirrors and glass. Ricardo Menon discovers Venera Finocchiaro, a ceramics teacher in Rome, who will do all the ceramic work for the Garden from that year on.


1984
Niki devotes all her time to the ‘Tarot Garden’.


1985
Several buildings, including ‘The Magician’, ‘The Tower’, ‘The Empress’ and ‘The High Priestess’, are brought to completion. Jean Tinguely builds one machine to be installed on top of ‘The Tower of Babel’.

The Casino Knokke in Belgium, holds a Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition.


1986
Niki spends most of the year in Garavicchio. New sculptures are installed in the ‘Tarot Garden’.

She co-authors with Professor Silvio Barandun and illustrates a book entitled ‘AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands’. The book is first published in English and later translated into five different languages. In all, 70,000 copies are sold or given to medical institutions and schools.

Ricardo Menon leaves the ‘Tarot Garden’ to go back to Paris, where he attends drama school. There he meets Marcelo Zitelli and introduces him to Niki who is looking for a gardener. She initially hires him as gardener, but soon makes him her assistant.


1987
In March, the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung (Hypo-Culture Foundation Art Centre) in Munich opens a major exhibition of Niki’s artwork, ‘Niki de Saint Phalle – Builder – Figuren – Phantastische Gärten’ (‘Niki de Saint Phalle – Builder – Figures – Fantastic Garden’).

The Galerie Bonnier in Geneva presents work by Niki in ‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Oeuvres récentes’ (‘Niki de Saint Phalle: Recent Works’).

Niki’s first American retrospective is held at the Nassau County Museum of Fine Arts in Roslyn, Long Island, ‘Fantastic Visions: Works by Niki de Saint Phalle’.


1988
Nike de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely are commissioned by President Francois Mitterrand to make a fountain for the Urban Council Square of the city of Château-Chinon, of which he has been the mayor for many years. Mitterrand unveils the sculpture, which stands in front of the city hall, on 10th March.

Niki is commissioned by Helen Schneider to build another fountain for the Schneider Children’s Hospital in Long Island. She designs a snake tree 5.5 metres in height.

She also creates a gigantic kite dubbed ‘L’Oisean amoureux’ (‘Bird in Love’) for a world-wide travelling exhibition devoted to kites and organised by the Goethe Institute in Japan.


1989
Recent pieces made by Niki in collaboration with Jean Tinguely are shown at an exhibition in Paris entitled ‘Oeuvres des années 80’ (‘Works from the 1980s’), organised jointly by the Galerie JGM and the Galerie de France.

The Bénédictine Palace in Fécamp, France, presents an exhibition dedicated to Niki’s ‘Tarot Garden’, accompanied by texts by Pontus Hulten, Pierre Restany, and Jean Tinguely.

Using bronze for the first time, Niki creates a series of Egyptian gods and goddesses.

Ricardo Menon, Niki’s long-time assistant, dies of AIDS.


1990
In June, Niki displays her work from the 1960s in two concurrent exhibitions held both in Paris – one at the Galerie de France, the other at the Galerie JGM – under one title, ‘Tirs… et autres révoltes, 1961-1964’ (‘Shooting… and Other Rebellions, 1961 – 1964’).

With her son Philip Mathews, Niki produces a cartoon-adaptation of her book ‘AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands’. In November, she shows the movie at the Decorative Arts Museum at Paris. The museum organises an exhibition of drawings made for the film as well as for the revised version of the book.

‘Sida, tu ne l’attraperas pas’ (‘AIDS, You Will Not Get It’), the revised version of Niki’s book, is published by the Agence Francaise de Lutte contre le Sida (Agency of France Against AIDS) and distributed to schoolchildren throughout France.


1991
Niki produces an enlarged model (1:4 scale) of her ‘Temple Idéal’ (‘Ideal Temple’), which she describes as ‘a church for all religions’, first conceived in 1972.

In June, Gimpel Fils Gallery in London holds an exhibition of Niki de Saint Phalle’s ‘Gods’, a series of statues inspired by Indian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian divinities.

Jean Tinguely dies in August.

Niki builds her first divinit, to which she gives the name ‘Méta-Tinguely’.

Paul Sacher proposes to create a Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel, Switzerland.


1992 – 1993
Pontus Hulten organises a major Niki de Saint Phalle retrospective under the auspices of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle (Art Exhibition Hall) in Bonn, Germany. The retrospective will subsequently be shown – each time under a slightly modified form – by the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow, Scotland; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (the Municipal Modern Art Museum of Paris); and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (Museum of Art and History) in Fribourg, Switzerland.

She produces a series of kinetic reliefs, or moving paintings named ‘Tableaux Eclatés’ (‘Shining Painting’).

The large-scale outdoor fountain, ‘Lebensretter’ (‘The Rescuer’), which was commissioned to her by the city of Duisburg, Germany, is installed.

Niki creates a sculpture, ‘Les Footballeurs’ (‘Soccer Players’), for the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.


1994
Niki moves to San Diego, southern California, where she lived and worked until her death in May 2002. Upon her arrival, she makes a series of silkscreen under the heading ‘California Diary’.

Niki starts working with two former collaborators of Sam Francis, the lithographer George Page and Samuel Jacob, an etching and aquatint master. Over the next few years, she will produce 26 lithographs with the former, 13 with the latter, all edited by Ebi Kornfeld.

Niki contracts Lech Juretko to organise a studio for the cutting of mirrors, glass and stones which she is increasingly using on her sculptures material that allows a tactile experience of her work by public. To do this painstaking work, Lech sets up a crew of six to work in San Diego on all of Niki’s up-coming large-scale projects.

In October, the Niki Museum opens in Nasu, Japan, devoted to the work and life of Niki de Saint Phalle, and directed by Yoko Masuda. She embarks on the collaboration with Mario Botta for a major sculpture/architecture project, ‘Noah’s Ark’, commissioned by the Jerusalem Foundation.

She designs a stamp with the message ‘Stop AIDS/Stop SIDA’ for the Swiss postal service.

Niki is awarded the Prix Caran d’Ache.


1995
Peter Schamoni makes a documentary film on the artist’s life, ‘Who is the Monster? You or Me?’

The French Association of Artistic Action (AFAA), French cultural organisation, organises a traveling exhibition which is shown by several major museums in Central and South America, including Rufino Tamayo Museum in Mexico; the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas in Venezuela; the Museum of Modern Art in Bogota, Colombia; the State Pinacotheca in São Paulo, Brazil; and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


1996
Niki begins the construction of ‘Gila’, a children’s playhouse in the form of a dragon 3.63 metres high and 9.09 metres long, covered with a mosaic of mirrors, stones, ceramics, and glass, for a private residence in San Diego. Important in the making of ‘Gila’ is a computerised enlargement process, which will become crucial in the realisation of Niki’s subsequent large-scale projects and be entrusted to Gary Kirk of Sandworld Inc. This new process is only of the many technical advancements which Niki discovers and embraces after moving to California.

Opening of the Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel. Niki donates 55 major sculptures and over a hundred graphic works by Jean making the bulk of the collection.

Niki gives some of her and Jean Tinguely’s artwork to create L’Espace Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle in Fribourg, Switzerland.


1997
The Swiss Railways (CFF) commission Niki to build for the main railway station in Zurich a 10-metre high sculpture, ‘L’Ange Protecteur’ (‘The Guardian Angel’), which is unveiled in November.

Mario Botta builds a gateway and adjacent wall for the ‘Tarot Garden’.

Niki designs new snake chairs in wood with mosaic inlay, made by Dell Cover and Dave Carr.


1998
The ‘Tarot Garden’ opens officially on 15th May.

Niki completes the last of the twenty-two large animal sculptures, which will board ‘Noah’s Ark’ for a children playground in Jerusalem. As in much of her sculpted work since the early 1980s she is assisted by Marcelo Zitelli.

She creates a series of sculptures entitled ‘Black Heroes’, a homage to several prominent African-American figures who became famous particularly through sport or jazz including Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Josephine Baker. The series is dedicated to her great grand-children, who are of mixed race.

She writes the first volume of her autobiography, ‘Traces’.

The Mingei International Museum in San Diego holds the largest American retrospective yet of Niki’s work, organised by her friend Martha Longnecker.


1999 – 2000
Another Niki de Saint Phalle retrospective is organised and held by the Ulmer Museum in Ulm, Germany, under the title ‘Niki de Saint Phalle – Liebe, Protest, Fantasie’ (‘Niki de Saint Phalle – Love, Protest, Fantasy’). The retrospectives subsequently travel to the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein.

An exhibition of Niki’s works takes place at the L’Espace Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle in Fribourg, Switzerland.

Niki starts to exhibit her works at the Tasende Galleries in San Diego and in Los Angeles.

She builds a ‘skull’ of 5-metre high, adorned with mosaics on the outside; inside is a meditation room lined with mirrors. The sculpture is for the city of San Diego.

She also designed a monumental, 125 metres in diameter, surrounded by a snake-wall, for a park to be built in homage to Queen Califia, the legendary queen of California, in Escondido, Southern California. Niki is commissioned to redesign the three rooms of ‘The Grottos’ of the grand garden of the Herrenhausen in Hanover, Germany.

Niki makes a new series of vases.


2000
In October in Tokyo, Niki is awarded the Praemium Imperiale, considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in art world.

On 17th November, a donation by Niki to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, Germany, is confirmed. The Mayor of Hanover and the director of the museum, Ulrich Krempel, both sign the document. On 19th November, the exhibition ‘La Fête. Die Schenkung Niki de Saint Phalle’ (‘Celebration: The Donation of Niki de Saint Phalle’) opens to the public.


2001
On 25th September, the Niki de Saint Phalle retrospective exhibition at the Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel is inaugurated. The greatest part of the donation made to the Sprengel Museum is displayed, with additional work on loan from the artist and from private collectors.

On 11th October, at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice (MAMAC), in one of the rooms of the permanent collection, Niki’s donation to the City of Nice for the museum is ratified. The gift includes 190 works, of which 63 paintings and sculptures, 18 engravings, 40 lithographs, 54 silkscreen prints and some original documents. Mayor of Nice Jacques Peyrat, and Director of the Museum, Gilbert Perlein, sign the document in the presence of the government representatives and a large audience, with the attorney representing the artist, but who, in an emotionally-charged moment, addressed the mayor by telephone from San Diego.


2002
On 16th March, opening of the Niki de Saint Phalle retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC) in Nice.

Niki was regularly kept informed of the preparations for the exhibition, even so she has never been able to go to Nice. On 22nd May, Niki de Saint Phalle dies of a chronic respiratory failure in the San Diego hospital, in California.

After the retrospective, a permanent room Niki de Saint Phalle / Jean Tinguely is set in the permanent exhibitions area of the museum. This room gathers a selection of donated works of Niki, together with several works of the Tinguely’s works left by Niki. The museum meets thus the wish expressed by the artist of stressing the very deep affection that united her to the Swiss artist. The project of spreading the work of Niki de Saint Phalle is built with the collaboration and support of the Niki Charitable Art Foundation.


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