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 6

Jewel 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. https://flic.kr/p/g5jV3

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: “Il était une fois… la bande à Niki”

     From 13 March 2014 through 5 January 2015, the Musée en Herbe in Paris, France will host the exhibition Il était une fois… 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 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.  Measuring 16’ 8” x 20’ 8” x 14’ 8”, the monumental sculpture is constructed of several individual pieces and carefully constructed of polyester, paint, and an assortment of mirrored and mosaic glass with gold leaf.  Saint Phalle wished for the installation to be fully integrated into an innocent, 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.  Thus, the sculpture underwent aggressive restoration in 1992.

Note: The Schneider Children’s Hospital is now known as the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.


© 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.

Jean Tinguely’s Cyclop: A Documentary Film

     Jean Tinguelys Cyclop, documents the artist’s monumental sculpture located in Milly-la-Forêt, France.  With the participation of Niki de Saint Phalle, Pontus Hultén, Arman, Cesar, Restany, Larry Rivers, Jean Pierre Raynaud, Soto, Philippe Bouveret, and various others, the film presents a complete vision of Tinguely’s life, art, and relationship with artist Niki de Saint Phalle, with whom he collaborated on many projects.

     Swiss artist, Jean Tinguely (1925 – 1991) was a painter and sculptor perhaps best known for his Méta-mécanique, or geometric, kinetic forms.  The massive Cyclop, also referred to as “The Head” or “The Monster in the Forest,” stands seventy-four feet high and weighs an estimated three-hundred fifty tons.  Completely self-financed, the massive structure encompasses four distinct art movements: Dada, Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism), Kinetic art, and l’art brut (Outsider art).  It reveals the synergistic, and often times symbiotic interrelationship between science and art.

     Begun in 1969 and inaugurated in 1994 by François Mitterand, President of the Republic, the Cyclop is a twentieth-century testament to the collaborative effort between artists and friends to realize Tinguely’s utopian dream for a complex, technologically advanced, monumental sculpture.

Donation of Graphics to Milly-la-Forêt, France

     In December 2013, the Niki Charitable Art Foundaton (NCAF) donated ten graphic works of art to Milly-la-Forêt, France for exhibition and subsequent inclusion in the city’s artwork collection.

    With this generous donation, NCAF wished to allow the city to lend these prints by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) to local schools and public spaces for exhibition, thereby encouraging the implementation of art educational programs into current pedagogical methods and trends.