Yoko Masuda

We pay our respects to an amazing woman, Yoko Masuda, who died on 28 January. Yoko was the director of the Niki Museum, a unique art museum solely devoted to the work of Niki de Saint Phalle. The museum, which opened in Nasu, Japan in 1994, was based on Yoko’s private collection, spanning Niki’s entire career and embodying Yoko’s deep love for Niki and her work.

Yoko was an exceptional woman, a true force of nature. We are happy to have known her. She will be deeply missed.

Photo source: Masuda, Yoko S. “The Tarot Garden. Niki de Saint Phalle.” Nasu: Niki Museum, 2008.

Niki for Kids in Lausanne

For a kid’s-eye view of Niki de Saint Phalle, visit “Les boîtes à secrets de Niki” at La Vallée de la Jeunesse in Lausanne. This unique exhibition, presented in the form of a game, leads children on a playful and educational journey tracing Niki’s life and work in a series of 14 installations. The exhibition, offered in partnership with the Musée en Herbe in Paris, is designed for children as young as four but will captivate kids of all ages.

“Les boîtes à secrets de Niki” will run through 21 June 2009. The price of admission is 6 francs for adults and 4 for children. For more information, visit the web site of La Vallée de la Jeunesse or call 021 315 68 85.

Below are descriptions (in French) of the topics and activities on the journey of “Les boîtes à secrets de Niki”:

1. Niki, la fée des couleurs: Découverte des épisodes les plus marquants de la vie de Niki de Saint Phalle. Jeu : replacer en face des images les étapes de la vie de Niki correspondantes.

2. Meli melo: Dans les années 50 Niki intègre dans ses peintures des objets divers comme des fragments de vaisselle, des grains de café,… Jeu : retrouver les objets que l’artiste a collés sur le tableau.

3. Emplâtrés: Présentation d’un tableau constitué d’éléments collés sur du plâtre. Jeu : créer un tableau en enfonçant des objets dans une surface de pâte à modeler.

4. Mon amour: Pour se remettre d’une rupture amoureuse, Niki crée une œuvre où la tête est constituée par une cible sur laquelle le visiteur peut envoyer des fléchettes. Jeu : lancer des boules velcros sur la cible.

5. Feu: En 1961 elle réalise ses premiers Tirs. Jeu : tirer sur le tableau avec la télécommande pour voir apparaître les couleurs.

6. Magique: Niki et Jean Tinguely créent ensemble en 1982 les sculptures de la fontaine Stravinsky à Paris. Jeu : retrouver quelles sont les sculptures réalisées par Niki et celles réalisées par Tinguely.

7. Le Jardin des Tarots: En 1978 Niki débute la réalisation du Jardin des Tarots en Toscane. Il comporte 22 sculptures monumentales représentant les arcanes du tarot. Jeu : tourner les volets et reconnaître les sculptures.

8. Les Nanas: Les Nanas de Niki représentent l’apothéose de la femme, resplendissante de liberté et de joie. Leurs courbes douces et arrondies évoquent une présence maternelle. Jeu : faire tourner des cylindres et reconstituer 3 nanas différentes.

9. Super Nanas: Niki a réalisé des Nanas de toutes les tailles et toutes les couleurs : petites, grandes, bleues, vertes, noires,… Elles représentent les femmes du monde entier. Jeu : prendre la position des nanas en se regardant dans le miroir.

10. Rhinocéros: Dans les années 90, elle réalise beaucoup de lithographies très colorées. Jeu : retrouver les couleurs du rhinocéros à travers un puzzle.

11. Le Golem: Le Golem est une structure monumentale que Niki a réalisée à Jérusalem. Ses trois langues sont des toboggans sur lesquels les enfants peuvent s’amuser. Ils représentent également la réconciliation entre les 3 religions Juive, Chrétienne et Musulmane. Jeu : faire glisser des personnages sur les toboggans.

12. Miroir, mon beau miroir: Enfant, elle vivait dans une maison pleine de miroirs. Plus tard elle en a orné ses sculptures, comme la tête du Cyclop. Jeu : mettre un chapeau comme Niki et se regarder dans les miroirs.

13. Les maisons de Niki: Elle a crée certaines Nanas qui sont si grandes que l’on peut y pénétrer, voir y habiter. Jeu : réaliser le puzzle pour reconstituer les maisons de Niki puis construire sa propre maison avec un jeu de construction.

14. Reine de légende: Niki a réalisé une immense sculpture entièrement recouverte de mosaïque en l’honneur de la reine Califia, issue d’une légende des Indiens d’Amérique. Elle est capable de dompter tous les animaux. Jeu : décorer la reine Califia avec des morceaux de mosaïque.

15. Suissitude: Niki a réalisé plusieurs œuvres qui sont présentes en Suisse. Jeu : retrouve où sont situées les œuvres photographiées.

In a workshop at the end of the visit, each child will have an opportunity to decorate a card in the style of Niki de Saint Phalle.

School groups visiting the exhibition (as well as teachers planning to present Niki’s work to their students) might also consider these classroom activities:

§ Create a larger-than-life figure in papier mâché, building a framework for it beforehand out of metal wire. Then paint it in bright colors.

§ Have the group create a large mural by gluing mosaic pieces of all colors to a wall or other large surface.

§ Gather old toys and worn-out or cast-off objects, then have the group create an assemblage in plaster.

Niki de Saint Phalle Solo Show Opens in Portugal

Niki de Saint Phalle’s first solo exhibition in Portugal opens this Friday at the Fundação Eugénio de Almeida in Évora.

Niki de Saint Phalle: Joie de Vivre – Alegria de Viver is “an unprecedented exposition of sculptures and engravings by one of the Pop Art movement’s most emblematic names,” the museum says, adding:

“The works of Niki de Saint Phalle are living pieces that exalt Love, Liberty and Woman. That speak of internal transformations and the labyrinths of the unconscious. And also of good and evil, of laughter, of tenderness, of fear… The artist’s universe is playful, irreverent; it is made of sinuous lines and forms, illuminated by explosive colors and pregnant with humor.”

The exhibition opens on 23 January and will be on display through 24 May 2009.

Naples Museum of Art Shows Olga Hirshhorn’s ‘The Mouse House’


The Mouse House: Works from the Olga Hirshhorn Collection featuring works by Picasso, Giacometti, Calder and many others.

NAPLES, FLORIDA – “The Mouse House” is the name lovingly given to the engaging yet diminutive house in Washington D.C., where Olga Hirshhorn spends a part of each summer (Hirshhorn is the widow of Joseph Hirshhorn, founding donor of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, part of the Smithsonian Institution). Formerly the carriage house of a larger residence, the house was redesigned by Hirshhorn in the late 1990s to suit her needs, and to act as a fitting backdrop for her art collection.

Olga Hirshhorn is a passionate collector, and has collected everything from Greek, Chinese and pre-Columbian antiquities to prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture by contemporary masters. Her house is a treasure trove of small and domestic-scale objects, displayed in an environment that gives them optimum impact. The collection, both powerful and whimsical, demonstrates her critical eye and her sensitivity to a wide variety of styles. Along with objects from antiquity, there are names from the 20th century that will be in the art books hundreds of years from now, such as Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Alexander Calder, Man Ray, Georgia O’Keeffe and Salvador Dalí (the collection includes six Picassos, four de Koonings, five Calders, five Man Rays and single pieces by O’Keeffe and Dalí). And there is yet more to discover – including works by 19th-century giants such as James Abbott McNeil Whistler, Antoine-Louis Barye, Honoré Daumier and Auguste Rodin.

Many of the 20th-century pieces are personally inscribed by the artist. A 1963 de Kooning is signed, “To Olga, Love Bill.” A 1968 Picasso bears the legend, “Pour Olga, son ami Picasso” (For Olga, her friend Picasso). A 1965 Niki de St. Phalle is simply inscribed, “To Olga.” In fact, a number of works were gifts from the artists, demonstrating the close relationship Olga Hirshhorn developed with some of the 20th century’s most important figures. While her husband Joe bought breathtaking large-scale works, Olga’s predilection for small objects led her to acquire sketches and idiosyncratic, personal expressions, which reveal the artist’s working methods and the close contact she had with artists. As Olga Hirshhorn has stated elsewhere, “This collection represents a lot of friendships that we established early on, but it also teaches us about how artists think, how they work. I’ve learned a lot from living with these objects.”

One can certainly learn a great deal from this collection of intimately-sized objects, and not just about American art. To take just one example; in sculpture, a great strength of the collection, there are signature works by the seminal American modernists Man Ray, Calder and Louise Nevelson, as well as by their English counterparts Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. The French tradition is represented by Jean-Antoine Houdon, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Rodin and Niki de Saint-Phalle, and you will also see inspired work by Albert Giacometti (Swiss), Arnaldo Pomodoro (Italian), Yaacov Agam (Israeli) and Picasso (Spanish). Such strength is repeated in the two-dimensional objects – paintings, drawings and prints. The collection in its entirety speaks volumes about the great art movements of the last 150 years, and beyond.

Though the “Mouse House” is a modern-day version of the 17th-century cabinet of curiosities – a small room or cabinet in which collectors crowded objects of virtue and curiosity from the arts and natural sciences – it is by no means a random collection. Each work defines an artist, a style or an era. Just because these works are typically small does not mean they lack power. On the contrary, here we have the Platonic idea of the macrocosm being illustrated by the microcosm – in this case, a whole world of art and ideas encapsulated by each tiny work of art.

At the Naples Museum of Art, the collection is installed in a room which roughly approximates in size the footprint of the house in D.C. Furthermore, we have tried, by adding the illusion of some of the rooms in the actual Mouse House, to present the works in an environment that allows them to resonate as they do in their own home. We hope you enjoy the special domestic atmosphere of this delightful small exhibition.


Naples Museum of Art: Niki in the Mouse House

Work by Niki de Saint Phalle is included in “The Mouse House: Works from the Olga Hirshhorn Collection,” now showing at the Naples Museum of Art in Naples, Florida.

The exhibition opened 1 October 2008 and runs through 28 June 2009.