Niki de Saint Phalle: Life & Work 1955–1961

Niki and Harry return to Paris. Niki meets Jean Tinguely, who will become an artistic collaborator. She is further inspired by the art of Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Rousseau. Niki visits the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, where she also discovers the work of Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Rauschenberg.

In 1960, Niki and Harry separate and Harry moves to a new apartment with the children. Niki sets up a studio and continues her artistic experiments. She is included in an important group exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. By the end of the year Niki and Jean Tinguely move in together, sharing the same studio and living in an artists' colony.

In the early 1960s Niki creates "shooting paintings" (Tirs), complex assemblages with concealed paint containers that are shot by pistol, rifle, or cannon fire. The impact of the projectile creates spontaneous effects which finish the work. The shooting paintings evolve to include elements of spectacle and performance. Niki becomes part of the Nouveau Réalisme group of artists — the only woman in a group that includes Arman, Christo, Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, and Jacques de la Villeglé, among others.

Niki has her first solo exhibition in Paris in 1961 and becomes friends with American artists staying in Paris, including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers, and his wife Clarice.

Marcel Duchamp introduces Niki and Tinguely to Salvador Dali, with whom they go to Spain for a celebration in his honor and create a life-size exploding bull out of plaster, paper, and fireworks for the end of a traditional bullfight.

Niki is included in The Art of Assemblage at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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