Niki de Saint Phalle: Art in Adversity

THE ARTIST

Bold art pieces that evoke both feminism and violence are relevant to the life of Niki de Saint Phalle. Her psyche was forged in staunch Catholicism and sexual abuse that would later reach into her visual and performance works. Saint Phalle found success in her Avant-guard art which was inspired and admired by many of her contemporaries. The commercialization of her works financed her career but came with the cost of scrutiny from her peers.  Currently, live and available for purchase (closing June 27th) are a group of four lithographs by Niki de Saint Phalle.

Born in France and raised in New York, Niki de Saint Phalle had a tumultuous upbringing that eventually led to the suicide of two of her younger siblings. Her mother was a loyal Catholic with a firm hand and her father began sexually assaulting her at the age of 11. St. Phalle’s Tirs series reflected an aggressive disposition likely developed through years of abuse.

 

THE ART

In the winter of 1962, Niki began the series of work titled Tirs, whitewashed assemblages frequently featuring public figures and popular icons were constructed of a multitude of found objects and concealed paint pockets, these pouches oozed pigment over the white surface after being shot allowing the art pieces to develop with their audience’s participation. The public displays conceived by Niki de Saint Phalle made bold and blatant statements about the church and government. These statement pieces scaled the ranks of the avant-guard scene and brought the notoriety required for success. Her contemporaries such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauchenberg and Marcel Duchamp who had inspired Saint Phalle now took part in the happenings involved in the creation of her own works.

The Tirs series not only brought her notoriety but also caught the eye of Daniel Spoerri, the artist who founded the Editions MAT. He released a series of shoot-it-yourself 3-dimensional Niki de Saint Phalle art pieces that established Saint Phalle’s commercial success.

FEMINISM

Niki’s work progressed in 1964 with a feminist take. Her pieces became free standing and grand in scale. Her rotund female figures or “Nanas” took on stereotypical roles of women as mothers, prostitutes, and witches. They were whimsical, bright, and once again loud. The size and function of her sculptures required Saint Phalle to explore new mediums. Harsh fumes associated with the weather resistant fiberglass and polyester resins used in production would later cause health problems for the Artist but the nanas were full of life and character. Again Saint Phalle’s art was well received and she was urged to develop highly productive editions; prints, posters, books, jewelry perfume glass, furniture, and even inflatable pool toys accompanied a line of smaller sculptures available for purchase. The commercialization of her works helped to finance her future endeavors.

Gardens of sculpture and architecture became Saint Phalle’s passion as her success grew. She began to include mosaics and mirrors in her designs and the once violent and hostile works representative of her tormented youth grew to be lighthearted as her sculptures morphed into playscapes and fountains. Even as her health deteriorated, Niki continued to create art. Her passion for creating will live on long after her death through her grandiose gardens and fanciful figures.

 

Visit iGavelAuctions.com to bid on the collection of Niki de Saint Phalle prints live now through June 27, 2017