ARTDAILY.ORG 14 JANUARY 2012
BRUEHL — The Max-Ernst-Museum is showing the wide-ranging oeuvre of the multifaceted artist Niki de Saint Phalle, undoubtedly one of the most important artists of the 20th century, in a large survey exhibition. Through her paintings, assemblages, shooting paintings (tirs), sculptures, and installations, this artist created a unique cosmos which established her international reputation.
Niki de Saint Phalle, born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1930 and died in San Diego, California, in 2002, had a defining influence on the art of her day, feminine features of which she celebrated and shaped. Like no one before her, she found a valid form for the elemental force of femininity, particularly in her Nanas.
The exhibition at the Max-Ernst-Museum provides an extensive overview of her oeuvre, from the early paintings to the late sculptures. “Play With Me,” the title both of the exhibition and of one of her first paintings, is also directed at the viewer. It is an appeal to the individual’s creativity, an invitation to make an attempt and participate in the artist’s unbridled joie de vivre. That joy was evident in all the phases of her creative life. Her oeuvre unites her interest in the originality of life and her own experiences. Niki de Saint Phalle cannot really be categorised, nor was she shy of contradictoriness. Whether she engrossed herself in sources like the tarot or Indian culture, or drew on subjective experiences, such as her childhood memories, everything flowed directly into her art and involved a broad creative spectrum. Painting, drawing and printing, the colossal but also miniature sculptures, reliefs, gardens, and also books, letters and written records, up to and including films form a unique cosmos – and the essence of her creative work.
The exhibition of more than 150 works, curated by Guido Magnaguagno, former director of the Tinguely Museum in Basel, embraces the sculptures on loan from the Niki Charitable Art Foundation in California and Paris, the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, and the Musée d’art moderne in Nice, to all of which Niki de Saint Phalle made generous donations of her works. The show also features works from numerous private and public lenders. It has been complemented, moreover, by quintessential works by Jean Tinguely, her partner of many years, and paintings by her first teacher, the still largely unknown Hugh Weiss. The presentation also involves the artist’s films, which illustrate her dream worlds and her engagement with the patriarchy, and which are frequently dealt with quite separately from her other work.
Image: A woman looks at the artwork “Sphinx” by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) at the Max-Ernst-Museum in Bruehl, Germany. The artwork is presented in a retrospective entitled “Niki de Saint Phalle: Spiel mit mir” (Niki de Saint Phalle: Play With Me), which opens to the public from 15 January to 3 June. (EPA/OLIVER BERG)