Coming Together at the San Diego Convention Center

     Coming Together (2001) was created by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002).  The thirty-eight foot monumental sculpture is prominently located at 8th Avenue and Harbor Drive at the San Diego Convention Center and depicts a human face divided in half – one side consists of mirrored mosaics, while the other consists of multi-colored ceramics.  Financing was graciously provided by the Port of San Diego.  The San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board, the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, and Port’s Public Art Committee worked in conjunction to select and recommend placement of the imposing artwork.

 In a statement regarding the sculpture, Saint Phalle explains: “The sculpture I have proposed to the Convention Center is the image of one person in all his or her magnificence and joy, which is represented by its brightly colored glass flickering in the sunlight.  I also show the darker image of the self in the gray and black tones.  There is the feminine side with the longer hair and the masculine side.  It is coming together, the integration of the self” (statement to the Unified Port of San Diego).

     Weighing ten tons and constructed of three separate pieces, Coming Together was a project realized with a team of assistants, including Lech Juretko and Marcelo Zitelli.  Artistic processes and final installation were documented in a KPBS TV program by Nick Nordquist.  Saint Phalle’s final design reflected the successful integration of modern technology with “Egyptian style” which implemented artisanal craftsmanship and careful customization of material.  Varied media such as petrified wood, fossils, mirrored-glass, and stones all added to the strong textural component, patterns, and iridescence that were ubiquitous in Saint Phalle’s work.  Coming Together is a complex sculpture that reflects the duality of self.  It is a highly revered work of art in Southern California and continues to attract visitors from around the world.

Jewel Goode Coming Together

Coming Together, 2001. © Jewel Goode, 2014. All Rights Reserved

Poet and Muse & Nikigator at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park

     Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) created two large-scale sculptures that are located outside of the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego.  They are the Le Poète et sa muse (Poet and Muse, 1998) and Nikigator (2001).  Established in 1978, the museum’s name, Mingei, translates to “art of the people” in Japanese.  International folk art, craft, and design are celebrated in its collection with the playful deconstruction and re-contextualization of everyday objects.  American artist Martha Longenecker (1920 – 2013) was founder of the Museum and close friends with Saint Phalle.  Born in Oklahoma City, Longenecker attended UCLA and later the Claremont Graduate School.  She then completed post-graduate research in Japan, studying ceramics under the auspices of Shōji Hamada and Tatsuzō Shimaoka.  From 1955 – 1990, Longenecker was professor emeritus of art at San Diego State University.

     Le Poète et sa muse officially entered Mingei’s collection in 1999 as a gift from Francis and Harvey White.  It represents a male poet holding a female muse on his shoulders.  The stout body ultimately undergoes a metamorphosis – male arms gradually transition into a voluptuous female body with wings.  This anthropomorphic process is commonly applied to deities and forces of nature in ancient civilizations.  Consisting of glass, stones, glass, and polyester, the monumental sculpture pays homage to artistic creative processes and inspiration.  The eupeptic and insouciant Nikigator sits atop polyurethane foam.  Drawing heavily from Antonio Gaudí’s Parc Güell in Barcelona, Spain, the brightly-colored alligator sculpture consists of clay tiles encrusted with mosaic glass and resin tumbled stones.  Its shiny, elongated exterior with exaggerated features measures 83” x 98” x 332″ and invites visitor interaction from children of all ages.

     Saint Phalle was not only represented in the Mingei’s collection, she also became one of its most important benefactors.  In 1998, the Museum organized a Niki de Saint Phalle Retrospective entitled Insider /Outsider World Inspired Art which was sponsored by Audrey Geisel.  The exhibition was funded in part by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program.  Curated by Janice Parente, it consisted of approximately 100 paintings, reliefs, graphics, and maquettes, including  a nineteen-foot Guardian Angel hanging in the Museum’s rotunda.  The exhibition also extended outside and showcased eight monumental animal sculptures designed in collaboration with Swiss architect Mario Botta for a Noah’s Art Park in Jerusalem.  Insider /Outsider World Inspired Art was considered to be the most extensive representation of Saint Phalle’s work in the United States.

Jewel Goode Balboa Park 1

Jewel Goode Balboa Park 3

Poet and Muse, 1998 and Nikigator, 2001. © Jewel Goode, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Sculpture Garden Closed for Maintenance

     Located in a remote area of Kit Carson Park, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido, California was created by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) and completed posthumously in 2003.  However, due to necessary maintenance and repair, the sculpture garden is currently closed.  Inspired by California’s mythical, historical, and cultural origins, it consists of nine large-scale sculptures, a circular snake wall and maze entrance, as well as sculpturally integrated bench seating.  Indigenous trees and shrubs are planted within the interior plaza and along the outer perimeter.   It is the only public sculpture garden in America by Saint Phalle, and it was to be her last  major project.

     Queen Califia’s Magical Circle clearly reflects Saint Phalle’s fascination with the interrelationship between art, monumental sculpture, and architecture.  As a result of environmental damage due to climatic conditions, the garden revealed signs of mild deterioration and general degradation in 2013.  After a decade, abrasion, erosion, broken mirrored tiles, and vandalism were visibly present.  Debris was immediately removed, gates were locked, and damages were thoroughly assessed by the Niki Charitable Art Foundation.  Subsequently, further evaluations were made by a Getty Museum conservator which stated that damages were more significant than previously noted.  Thus, extensive repairs were necessary.

     In order to deter future vandalism and promote respect for the dynamic sculpture garden, the Public Art Commission of Escondido intends to provide security cameras, educational training, and volunteer docent programs.  Kristina Owens, Associate Planner and Public Art Administrator provided a statement regarding the current situation: “The City’s primary goal is to re-open Queen Califia to the public.  The Public Art Commission is actively putting together a volunteer/docent program to establish limited days/hours the exhibit can be open to the public with supervision.  The number of hours we are able to open during the week will be based initially on the number of volunteers we have and the number of hours they can volunteer.  The commission is considering different approaches, but we are aiming for an early fall ‘soft’ opening of the Sculpture Garden (September). They are discussing coordinating a grander re-opening with publicity to possibly coincide with ‘October Arts Month.’”  In order to subsidize general maintenance and repairs, the Commission will utilize funds from the Pedestrian Pathfinders and the Escondido Creek Art reserves.  In addition, they intend to solicit private donations.

Jewel Goode NCAF QCMC 6Jewel Goode NCAF Escondido 34

Queen Califia's Magical Circle, 2003. Photos © Jewel Goode, 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Niki de Saint Phalle to be Featured at the Shanghai Jing’an Sculpture Park

     The Niki Charitable Art Foundation (NCAF) is pleased to announce that seven of its works created by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) have been confirmed by the Shanghai Jing’an International Sculpture Project Committee (JISP).  JISP is the recipient of a generous NCAF loan that will feature Saint Phalle’s artwork at the 3rd Shanghai International Sculpture Project in Shanghai, China from 20 September – 20 November 2014.  The particular selection will showcase the exhibition theme, City Paradise, and will be on display outdoors at the Shanghai Jing’an Sculpture Park.  Among those pieces featured will be Trois Grâces Fontaine (Three Graces Fountain, 1999), #19 Baseball Player (1999), and Obélisque bleue avec des fleurs (Blue Obelisk with Flowers, 1992).

     Saint Phalle was a prolific, socially-engaged artist of the mid-twentieth century who actively explored proportion and scale, various media, techniques, and subject matter.  Supreme love of color, thoughtful ornamentation, and artful documentation are all visibly reflected throughout her work.  She received international acclaim for her interactive Tirs (Shooting Paintings) and voluptuous Nanas, but her unique creations also encompass found-object assemblages, colorful graphics, experimental film, and decorative arts.  Furthermore, Saint Phalle’s fascination with the interrelatedness of art, monumental sculpture, and architecture continued well into her later career.  Her work was always deeply personal, yet still retains a universal appeal.

 Blog Trois Grace 700 px tall

Les Trois Grâces Fontaine, 1999. © Niki Charitable Arts Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Niki de Saint Phalle Retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

     In 2015, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will dedicate a Retrospective to Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002).  Saint Phalle was the only female member inducted into the Nouveaux Réalistes (New Realists) in 1961, an artistic movement founded by Pierre Restany.  Often viewed as violent and transformative, Saint Phalle’s emotionally-charged work is deeply embedded with socio-political issues including feminism, gender equality, and civil rights activism.

     By June of the same year, the Museum, in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France, will offer what it intends to be a more profound exploration of the work of art icon Jeff Koons.  For Fall, a third exhibition is planned which will cover the political, economical, and technological transformations that Africa has recently been experiencing.  In collaboration with El vitra Design Museum, “Making Africa” will focus on a generation of architects and African artists that have transcended the limits of design, art, photography, architecture, and urbanism.

     The choice of exhibitions scheduled for 2015 was decided upon following important discussions.  Members of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s Board of Trustees, chaired by Basque President Iñigo Urkullu, met to analyze promising statistical data which reveal a notable increase in museum visitation over the past several months.  Other highly esteemed members in attendance included: Jose Luis Bilbao, Deputy General of Biscay and Chairman of the Executive Committee; Ibon Aresco, Mayor of Bilbao; and Cristina Uriarte, Minister of Education.  Richard Armstrong, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, New York and Ignacio Vidarte, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao were also present.


Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Photo by Samuel Negredo (Flickr), 2006.

Niki de Saint Phalle Retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris

     The ultimate celebration of Niki de Saint Phalle’s life and career will be a Retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, France (17 September 2014 – 2 February 2015).  She still remains one of the most enigmatic artists of the 20th century.  Although deeply political, Saint Phalle’s work is also extremely poetic, jubilant, and intellectual.  The Franco-American has been known primarily for her revolutionary Tirs (Shooting Paintings) and voluptuous Nanas, but she also created elaborate assemblages and colorful graphics.  Monumental works such as Hon – A Cathedral (1966) and her Tarot Gardens in Garavicchio, Italy (1978 – 1998) reveal Saint Phalle’s fascination with the relationship between art, architecture, and monumental sculpture.

     Under the direction of renowned curator Camille Morineau, the Retrospective was organized in collaboration with the Réunion des musées nationaux – the Grand Palais and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, with the kind participation of the Niki Charitable Art Foundation. The exhibition benefits from loans from the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, Germany and the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) in Nice, France – both recipients of generous donations from the artist.

Niki de Saint Phalle aiming; colored Film-Still of "Daddy", 1972

© Niki Charitable Art Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Niki Charitable Art Foundation Launches New Website

     The Niki Charitable Art Foundation is proud to announce the launch of its new website! We are enthusiastic about presenting the artwork of Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) in a fresh, modern context that encourages thoughtful discussion and generates meaningful dialogue.  While our goals remain pedagogically-based, promoting a more profound understanding of the late artist, we also hope to increase general interest and make Saint Phalle’s artwork more easily accessible to the public.

     Visibly engaged in civil rights activism, gender equality, and socio-political affairs, Saint Phalle is finally beginning to garner the attention worthy of such a compelling woman.   Known mostly for her revolutionary Tirs (Shooting Paintings) and voluptuous Nanas, she also created elaborate assemblages and vibrant graphics.  Catherine Francblin’s biography, Niki de Saint Phalle: la révolte à loeuvre was published in 2013, and the Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois in Paris recently honored her work with an exhibition: “En joue!  Assemblages & Tirs, 1958 – 1964” (8 November – 21 December 2013).  The ultimate celebration of Saint Phalle’s extraordinary life and career will be the upcoming Grand Palais Retrospective in Paris, France (17 September 2014 – 2 February 2015).  Under the direction of renowned curator Camille Morineau and in collaboration with the Niki Charitable Art Foundation, the exhibition will offer a clear, vivid portrait of Saint Phalle. Her fascinating body of work – a non-traditional blend of abstractionism, expressionism, and modern trends – as well as her unconventional lifestyle, often led to her being misunderstood, scorned, and sometimes ostracized.  She was the female embodiment of all things diametrically opposed: beautiful, wild, seductive, and intense – a radical concept during the mid-twentieth century.

     The NCAF invites you to join us during this exciting time.  We will be announcing upcoming events, activities, and exhibitions on a regular basis here and via social media. We hope that Niki de Saint Phalle’s life and work continue to inspire you.

website launch

Musée en Herbe Exhibition: La bande à Niki

     From 13 March 2014 through 5 January 2015, the Musée en Herbe in Paris, France will host the exhibition La bande à Niki comprising sixty original works of art belonging to the Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism) artistic movement.  La Bande refers to individuals of the Nouveaux Réalistes (New Realists), a group into which Niki de Saint Phalle was later accepted.  Founding member and art critic, Pierre Restany wrote their manifesto entitled “Constitutive Declaration of New Realism” in 1960.  Created during an era when Abstractionism and American Pop Art reigned supreme, the Nouveaux Réalistes proposed an alternative approach to artwork, thereby creating a new reality which welcomed the playful deconstruction and re-contextualization of everyday objects.  The accumulation of found-objects were cleverly integrated into their oeuvres - the end product often being chaotic paintings, assemblages, and sculptures embedded with a unique visual language of discarded items.  Members included Pierre Restany, Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Jacques Villeglé, Daniel Spoerri, Martial Raysse, François Dufrêne, and Raymond Hains.  From 1961, the Nouveaux Réalistes expanded to include César, Mimmo, Rotella, Niki de Saint Phalle, Gérard Deschamps, and Christo.  The movement was dissolved in 1970.

      Organized in collaboration with the Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (INRAP), Il était une fois… la bande à Niki allows visitors of varying ages to discover the Nouveaux Réalistes in a fun, unconventional way with games inspired by archeological excavations.  Transported to the year 3960, visitors are supplied with the appropriate archeological tools, then encouraged to unearth objects in the sand – the same objects which are located in the Nouveaux Réalistes artwork.  The highly interactive exhibition stimulates the imagination, curiosity, and interest in Nouveau Réalisme.  This would be last time that French artists would receive such international acclaim and recognition as a singular, collective group.

Niki Charitable Art Foundation Acquires Serpent Tree Fountain from Schneider Children’s Hospital

     The Niki Charitable Art Foundation recently acquired the colorfully animated Arbre de Serpents Fontaine (Serpent Tree Fountain) from the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York (previously known as Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York).  In 1988, Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) was commissioned by Hélène Schneider to create the Arbre de Serpents Fontaine.  The project was devised in close collaboration with Schneider and Robert Haligon, and realized over a ten-month period.  The monumental sculpture is constructed of polyester and covered with an assortment of mirrored and mosaic glass.  Saint Phalle wished for the installation to be fully integrated into an safe, utopian realm where children were free to roam, play, and dream.  Arbre de Serpents Fontaine was later on extended loan to the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York, courtesy of Schneider Children’s Hospital.  However, as a result of severe environmental damage due to harsh climatic conditions, it revealed signs of serious deterioration and general degradation.  The sculpture currently undergoes professional restoration and cleaning.


© Niki Charitable Art Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Niki Charitable Art Foundation Donates Artwork to Escondido Arts Partnership

     In cooperation with the Escondido Arts Partnership/Municipal Gallery, the Niki Charitable Art Foundation (NCAF) donated a graphic print: Saint Phalle’s California Diary (Order and Chaos).  NCAF has generously contributed donations to EAP since 2004.  On March 22, 2014 the serigraph was part of the Panache Invitational Art Exhibition and Gala Event in Escondido, California.  Order and Chaos provides a chaotic labyrinth of words as ornamentation to accompany the solitary, stately Liberty-Nana figure. Pairing elaborate, autobiographical orthography with a boldly-colored archetypal female provides an artistic medium by which progressive, feminist ideals could be expressed within the confines of a rigid Western patriarchal society.  It was also a way to incorporate both mythological and astrological themes which continued to influence Saint Phalle’s work.