Niki de Saint Phalle


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(b Neuilly-sur-Seine, 29 Oct. 1930; d La Jolla, Calif., 21 May 2002).

French sculptor, painter, graphic artist, and film-maker, one of the great entertainers of modern art. In 1952 she started painting without formal artistic training and she first came to prominence in 1960 with ‘rifle-shot’ paintings that incorporated containers of paint intended to be burst and spattered when shot with a pistol. After she separated from her husband in 1960 she lived with Jean Tinguely (they married in 1971), with whom she collaborated on numerous projects, notably the enormous sculpture Hon (Swedish: ‘She’) erected at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, in 1963 (destroyed). It was in the form of a reclining woman (more than 25 m (80 ft) long) whose interior was a giant ‘environment’ reminiscent of a funfair; visitors entered through the vagina. The attractions inside included a milk bar in the breasts and a cinema showing Greta Garbo movies. Externally the figure was gaudily painted in a manner similar to that of her series of Nanas—grotesque fat ladies. Her other works included happenings and films, and from 1979 she worked on a huge sculpture garden at Garavicchio in Italy, with figures based on tarot cards (it opened to the public in 1998). Other projects of her later years included a touching book on AIDS addressed to her son (AIDS: You Can't Catch it Holding Hands, 1987), and a giant figure of the Loch Ness monster, made for an exhibition of her work in Glasgow in 1992 (it is now at the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice).

Subjects: Art.

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