In All That Glitters, Saint Phalle’s Mythology Is Told


We live in arid times.

Snug in our cubicles, we are cut off from nature. Safe in our suburban redoubts, we are separated from animals.

Most striking of all, given thousands of years of human history, we live without myths. The stories and images of gods and goddesses that nourished our ancestors, helping them understand themselves and the world, are gone. We’re left with pale substitutes: celebrities. J Lo is a poor stand-in for Athena.

Niki de Saint Phalle understood all this. And the French-American artist, who died in 2002 at age 71, determined to do something about it. She made paintings, prints and sculptures full of images and forms to reconnect us to what we’ve lost. At the same time, she sought to inject a quality not often found in contemporary art — fun.

See how well she succeeded in “Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology” at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art uptown. Surely you’ve seen her five large sculptures on The Green across from the museum. Don’t stop there. The 54 works from the Niki Charitable Art Foundation inside the Bechtler brim with emotions, ideas and colors to ravish the optic nerve.

Saint Phalle was self-taught. Working and living with artists in the mid-20th century, she sponged up influences from movements such as Cubism and especially Surrealism with its love of the unconscious and use of a distorted reality to express the inner self, dreams in particular.

Employing the strategies of the naïve artist, her work is about emotional directness, not achieving a polished finish. Rather than seduce, she compels. She was unafraid of trying something new. She was also part of her time, and could not avoid, for instance, telling about the changing role of women.

“The Bride,” a larger-than-life sculpture, is a looming figure, benign and scary, covered with found objects such as toy babies, guns, dolls and airplanes. Both a figure to worship and a cultural critique, it’s the wildest “Bridezilla” you’ll ever see.

Saint Phalle loved symbols such as the rising sun on her “Firebird,” the much-photographed sculpture outside the Bechtler. The sun and firebirds appear in several other works as do hearts, skulls, stars and flowers.

She especially loved snakes. They appear over and over, mostly, I think, as symbols of wisdom. That, after all, is what the serpent in the Garden of Eden offered Eve.

Refashioned mythical figures from Egypt (Horus), early America, Mexico and India (Ganesh) appear. She also invented her own. Feeling a lack of positive African-American heroes, she created sculptures of several. On the Green stands a Miles Davis, the jazz great wearing a coat of many colors and blowing a golden trumpet.

Saint Phalle believed in color to chase the blues away. And in fun. A sculpture outdoors on the museum’s second level depicts a man and wife taking their pet tarantula for a walk. What a hoot!

All these works show a marked use of pattern. Saint Phalle covered her pieces, whether in two or three dimensions, with fragments: bits of gold leaf, mirrors, glitter, colored glass, ceramic tiles and polished stones.

As a technique, it breaks up surfaces and gives them visual energy. But it does something more. All that variety in material, texture and color subsume into a satisfying whole, a representation of the interconnectedness of life.

Walking in The Green past “La Cabeza” (“The Skull”), I heard screeching children inside the huge sculpture. They could have been checking out the echo. Or feeling the shivering fear of being inside such a fantastic object. Most likely their sounds were the sounds of pure delight.

They are at the precubicle stage of life and know how to have fun. They gave, I think, what Saint Phalle’s art demands from all of us: a response from the heart.

— Richard Maschal, Charlotte Observer


Richard Maschal is a retired Observer visual art and architecture writer.

Photo 1 — On the Green is Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculpture of Miles Davis. Photo by T. Ortega Gaines.

Photo 2 — “I Woke Up Last Night” (1994) is one of 54 works on display by Niki de Saint Phalle that brims with colors, ideas and emotions. Photo by T. Ortega Gaines.

Photo 3 — “Le Banc (The Bench)” (1991) by Niki de Saint Phalle is on view at The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art through October 3. Photo by T. Ortega Gaines.

Photo 4 — Author Richard Maschal. Photo by Wendy Yang.


Slogans féministes sous le regard de Niki de Saint-Phalle


Dimanche dernier 22 mai l’association Osez le féminisme ! avait appelé à un rassemblement place Igor Stravinski à Paris pour protester contre les remarques sexistes et pour certaines clairement phallocrates d’hommes politiques et médiatiques français à propos de l’affaire DSK. Le thème du rassemblement était bien celui-là, il est utile de le préciser dans un moment où doit s’exercer une réflexivité discursive et une vigilance lexicale soutenues : refuser les propos sexistes et la minimisation voire la négation de l’évocation d’un crime grave à l’égard des femmes (elles sont très largement majoritaires chez les victimes de viol, comme le montre V. Le Goaziou dans son livre tout récent, écrit à partir d’une ample enquête sur des données judiciaires). Le rassemblement a donné lieu à quelques slogans intéressants, soit dans la veine classique, soit dans une veine plus novatrice et humoristique. Petite revue en texte et en image.

Le slogan « officiel » du rassemblement avait été lancé en même temps que l’appel à manifestation : « Sexisme. Ils se lâchent, les femmes trinquent » .

L’increvable « Nous sommes tou.te.s des… » a été décliné en « Nous sommes toutes des femmes de chambre » , « Nous sommes toutes des Guinéennes » et « Nous sommes toutes des Africaines » . Cet efficace slogan fonctionne en tous temps et en tous lieux car il est indexical, c’est-à-dire qu’il est appropriable par tout un chacun à la première personne, du singulier ou du pluriel. Il vient d’une chanson de Dominique Grange, « La pègre », sortie en 1968, à partir de laquelle Daniel Cohn-Bendit a popularisé le célèbre « Nous sommes tous des juifs allemands » . Les paroles originales du refrain sont les suivantes :

Nous sommes tous des Juifs et des Allemands
Nous sommes tous des dissous en puissance
Nous sommes tous des Juifs allemands !

Et les couplets continuent la déclinaison :

Nous sommes des gauchistes,
Des aventuristes
Marxistes léninistes guévaristes ou trotskystes,
Nous sommes des anars
Nous en avons marre
De voir vos flicards quadriller nos boulevards (D. Grange, « La pègre », 1968).

Ce slogan mène une riche vie discursive puisque j’ai pu relever : « Nous sommes tous des immigrés », « Nous sommes tous des étrangers », « Nous sommes tous des sans-papiers », « Nous sommes tous des Tibétains », et même « Nous sommes tous des juifs musulmans » (Nadia Benhelal et Philippe Corcuff, en 2004 sur le site Bella Ciao). Mais revenons à nos femmes de chambre guinéennes.

Les autres slogans étaient plus contextuels, liés à l’affaire DSK (mention de la désormais fameuse « soubrette ») :

— Sexisme. Ça part en couilles !

— Les soubrettes sont en colère !

— Le machisme tue les femmes

— Sortons l’homme des cavernes

— Femmes coeur battant de la démocratie

— Droit de troussage ? Droit de cuissage ? Mort d’homme ? On est où, là ? Le féminisme est un humanisme

— F. H. égaux en droit cherchent traitement équitable

— Non aux régressions, non aux violences. Défendons les droits des femmes !

Un panneau assez important proclame :

Le sexisme, premier racisme de l’histoire
Le viol, premier outil politique
Le viol, première arme politique
En tous temps
en touts lieux (sic)

On ne pouvait s’empêcher, en regardant la fontaine de Niki de Saint-Phalle et de Jean Tinguely, devant laquelle une femme-sandwich affichait : « Respect mutuel et dignité. Now. Tout de suite » , de penser à cet ouvrage écrit tardivement, Mon secret, émouvant témoignage, écrit à la main, du viol de l’artiste, à 11 ans, par son père, banquier respecté.

— Marie-Anne Paveau, La pensée du discours

Survey Exhibition of the Work of Multifaceted Artist Niki de Saint Phalle at Kunsthalle Würth


KUNZELSAU — The Kunsthalle Würth in Schwäbisch Hall shows 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 Kunsthalle Würth will provide 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 both the sculptures in the Würth Collection and works 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 will be 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 will also involve 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 visitor passes between US-French artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s (1930-2002) “Kingfisher Totem” (L) and her “Bird Head Totem” (R) at the “Play With Me” exhibition preview at the Kunsthalle Wuerth in Schwaebisch Hall, Germany. The Kunsthalle will show around 180 paintings, sculptures and installations at the exhibition that consist mostly of loaned artworks. The exhibition runs from 17 April until 16 October 2011. (EPA/BERND WEISSBROD)

Artist Julie Richey wins best 3-D award for ‘La Corrente’


“One is struck by unexpected juxtapositions in Julie Richey’s three-dimensional works. La Corrente is an elegant sculpture expertly executed in traditionally durable mosaic materials with imagery that comments on the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Texas artist Julie Richey has received Best 3-D Mosaic honors from the 2011 Mosaic Arts International, an annual international juried exhibition of contemporary mosaic art. Richey’s figurative dress sculpture in marble, glass smalti and seashells is entitled La Corrente (The Current).

La Corrente is about beauty amidst destruction,” says Richey. “It was created during the Gulf oil spill and it alludes to the many destructive forces, both man-made and natural, that creep in with the current.” Richey describes her work as “utilizing the innate opulence of mosaic materials – 24k gold smalti, marble, semi-precious stones, iridescent glass and minerals – to embellish sculptural forms in unexpected ways.”

Three jurors from the US and Australia selected Richey’s work from among more than 300 international entries. Juror JeanAnn Dabb, Professor of Art History, University of Mary Washington commented on Richey’s work, “One is struck by unexpected juxtapositions in Julie Richey’s three-dimensional works. La Corrente is an elegant sculpture expertly executed in traditionally durable mosaic materials with imagery that comments on the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. Richey’s recent sculptures have clothing or dress forms as shared structures and the environments referenced in their individual subjects range from the rural to the urban; all linked by the actions of humans and the forces of nature.”

Nancie Mills Pipgras, Editor in Chief of the publication Mosaic Art Now, remarks, “In La Corrente, Richey has succeeded in making hard materials — stone, glass, and shell — appear to float and fold with the gentle grace that only wind and water can bestow. We are reminded that all in nature is fragile.”

Richey has worked in the mosaic medium for more than 20 years, creating custom residential and commercial mosaics. She has earned international recognition for several recent projects, including the 2009 Orsoni Prize for Night Shirt, a wall relief mosaic depicting San Francisco Bay at midnight. In October 2011 Richey will be leading a Mosaic Masterpiece Tour to Rome and the Vatican Micromosaic Workshop, Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden in Tuscany and the International Mosaic Festival in Ravenna.

Richey’s work can be viewed at

Stark Insider

Image 1 — La Corrente (The Current). Marble, smalti, seashells and 24k gold. (Private commission 2010)

Image 2 — Back view.

Image 3 — Dentalia, or sea spines, coat the entire underside of the dress.

10-Foot-Tall Woman Coming to Times Square


Times Square getting public art installation

Five large and whimsical sculptures are coming to Times Square as part of a weeklong public art installation.

The Times Square Alliance is slated to unveil the five artists’ works in Duffy Square Tuesday morning.

The outdoor exhibition features a bronze mouse; a voluptuous female figure made of ceramic tiles and glass pebbles; an illuminated sculpture of bubbling sea foam; and a work made of compact discs and resin meant to evoke an ancient monument.

All the structures are about 10 feet tall.

Another highlight is Counting Sheep, a 36-foot-long installation of 24 handmade paper sheep.

The art project marks the start of Armory Arts Week, which features arts events throughout New York City.

The sculptures are scheduled to remain on display through next Monday.

NBC New York

Image — Niki de Saint Phalle’s Star Fountain in Times Square.

Sheep Flock to Times Square


Joining the art carnival that descends on New York City during the annual Armory Show, the huge contemporary art fair that opens on Thursday, Times Square is transforming itself into a “whimsical” sculpture garden.

Pieces by Tom Otterness (a huge bronze mouse, looking as if it has outgrown the subway), Niki de Saint Phalle (a 10-foot ceramic and glass female figure) and Kyu Seok Oh, a Brooklyn artist (a flock of sheep handmade from heavy paper) were unveiled on Tuesday along with two other sculptures by Grimanesa Amorós and David Kennedy Cutler. The works, presented by the Times Square Alliance, will remain on view through Monday.

Four of the sculptures are at Duffy Square and sites between 46th Street and 47th Street. The sheep, which are presented in partnership with the West Harlem Art Fund, will be grazing motionlessly for the week between 45th Street and 46th Street near the Marriott Marquis Hotel. No need to feed them.

Randy Kennedy, The New York Times / ArtsBeat

Photo: The flock of sheep. (Angel Franco/The New York Times)

Niki de Saint Phalle Sculpture Will Be On Display at Times Square Through March 7


Niki de Saint Phalle’s colossal mosaic sculpture, The Star Fountain (Blue) (1999), will be on view free and open to the public at the 2011 Times Square Show, a major large-scale outdoor group exhibition on Broadway and 42nd Street, from March 1 through 7, 2011.

Wittily executed in the artist’s signature sparkling colors, The Star Fountain (Blue) depicts a flamboyant and playful ‘Nana’ that juggles two large pitchers from which water constantly cascades. Standing nearly 10 feet tall, and made of polyurethane foam, resin, steel armature, glass pebbles, ceramic tiles, mirror and stained glass, the voluptuous female figure is an archetype of feminine power and strength. Decorated with cosmic symbols and stars in shades of white, red, yellow and blue, the majestic Nana celebrates motherhood, sensuality, love and life — themes recurrently explored by Saint Phalle.

The sculpture’s illusory effects of light and color and the use of water create a magnetic attraction and meditative sensory experience. Installed in the heart of New York’s theater district, its mirrored and stained glass tesserae, reflecting the city’s flickering lights and vibration, provide a rare opportunity to dive into Saint Phalle’s realm — one of whimsy and fantasy.

Internationally acclaimed for her oversized, voluptuous female figures, Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) was a French-American, self-taught sculptor, painter and film maker of international prominence. She is best known for her public sculptures, such as the Stravinsky Fountain next to the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1983), the Tarot Garden at Garavicchio in southern Tuscany (1998), the Grotto in Hannover’s Royal Herrenhausen Garden (2003), and Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in California (2003). Saint Phalle, who began her career as an artist in the 1950s, was awarded the 12th Praemium Imperial Prize, considered to be the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the art world, in Japan in 2000. Born in 1930, in Neuilly sur Seine, Saint Phalle died in 2002 at the age of 71 in La Jolla, California.

This work is presented by the Nohra Haime Gallery, with the support of the Niki Charitable Art Foundation, in collaboration with the Armory Art Show and the Times Square Alliance.

The Nohra Haime Gallery represents the Niki Charitable Art Foundation.

PLACE: Times Square on Broadway and 42nd Street, New York City

DATES: March 1-7, 2011

RECEPTION: March 1st from 7-9 p.m. at the Times Square Visitor Center

Ana Maria de la Ossa at 212-888-3550 or

Broadway World

Photo: Niki de Saint Phalle

Public Sculpture Comes to Times Square

WNYC  1 MARCH 2011

NEW YORK — This week, fine art meets flash as five sculptures by high-profile artists land in Times Square, a public art exhibition connected to the arts trade show Armory Arts Week.

Star Fountain, by late French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, one of the works on display in Times Square this week. (Marlon Bishop/WNYC)

On Tuesday morning after the unveiling, tourists and native New Yorkers alike wandered among the statues, ranging from a voluptuous ten-foot ceramic woman by the late sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle to the 24 sheep made of paper by Brooklyn artist Kyu Seok Oh.

“I’m always supportive of public art sculptures, there needs to be more of them,” says Arash Mokhtar, an actor who was checking out the sculptures after an audition. “I’m glad they’re actually in Times Square and not far off in some art world refuge.”

The sculptures were chosen, alongside artistic considerations, to withstand the wear and tear of a week in Times Square, where, according to curator Glen Weiss, people tend to be pretty “hands-on” with the art.

All five works will be on display until next Tuesday.

— Marlon Bishop, Culture Producer, WNYC

The Artist: Tom Otterness
The Work: Mouse (Large) (2007)

The Artist: Grimanesa Amorós
The Work: The Uros House (2011)

The Artist: Niki de Saint Phalle
The Work: Star Fountain (Blue) (1999)

The Artist: David Kennedy Cutler
The Work: Geologies, Cosmologies, Apologies #1 (2010)

The Artist: Kyu Seok Oh
The Work: Counting Sheep (2011)

All photos by Marlon Bishop / WNYC

Niki de Saint Phalle in Schunck*: heimelijke wonden


HEERLEN — Ook toen ze beroemd werd als kunstenaar is Catherine Marie-Agnès zich blijven noemen naar de koosnaam die ze van haar moeder kreeg. Al was het maar omdat ze dondersgoed wist dat ze haar familie ermee kon ergeren. Zo pleegde ze haar eerste daad van verzet, want die familie ja daar moest Niki de Saint Phalle op zeker moment niks meer van hebben. Ondanks de goede komaf – haar vader was bankier – wilde ze zo snel mogelijk ontsnappen aan haar zo bleek later, traumatische jeugdervaringen. Er zouden nog vele verzetsdaden volgen.

De Frans-Amerikaanse Niki de Saint Phalle was een van de eerste vrouwelijke kunstenaars die haar gevoelens en kwetsbaarheid tot uiting liet komen in de kunst. Wie zich in haar werk verdiept voelt ondanks de aanblik van monsterachtige cyclopen, mythische beelden en de obsessief vervormde koppen wat De Saint Phalle gevoeld moet hebben. Kunst als catharsis. Kunst om jezelf te bevrijden. De Saint Phalle liet de inhoud van haar werk bepalen door persoonlijke, vrij heftige gebeurtenissen en omstandigheden uit haar leven. Dat was niet niks. Haar werk werd een daad van dwarsheid en verzet tegen onder meer de heersende rol van mannen in de maatschappij. “Ik ben geneigd om dingen te schilderen waar ik doodsbang voor ben”, zei ze ooit in een interview. Tegenwoordig maken topkunstenaars als Tracey Emin en Sarah Lucas faam met een meer provocatief-feminiene variant.

Opmerkelijk is het onderscheid in kleurgebruik bij Niki de Saint Phalle. Ze was al meer dan tien jaar bezig als kunstenaar toen met ingang van medio jaren zestig het kakelbont van haar werk begon af te spetteren na een periode van effen en somber aandoend grijs. Soms hing er letterlijk een grauwsluier omheen. In die tijd maakte ze kunst die niet mooi wilde zijn, dat niet voldeed aan het ideaalbeeld van schoonheid. De Saint Phalle’s kleurloze kunstuitingen konden wat haar betreft dan ook niet divers en tegelijk betekenisvol genoeg zijn. Sculpturen, schilderijen, altaren, assemblages van rondom haar huis gevonden voorwerpen, maar ook van materialen die je associeert met geweld voortgebracht door mannen. Vaak verwerkt ze pistolen en ander wapentuig in haar objecten, net als doodskoppen en speelgoedpoppetjes waarvan de ledematen zijn afgerukt.

Een enkele keer is de daad van verzet zo nadrukkelijk dat het werk iets overdadigs krijgt. Dan lijkt De Saint Phalle’s kunst volgepropt met een willekeurige zwik multimediamateriaal waardoor de kracht van het beeld teniet wordt gedaan. Wanneer de vlakverdeling gelijkmatiger is oogt haar werk een stuk toegankelijker, zoals het bronzen altaar dat met vleermuizen, pistolen en kruisen zwanger is van symboliek. Vlakbij in dezelfde ruimte staat een met dieren en poppen getooide bruid; verderop een zelfportret vol scherven en sieraden en koffiebonen als wenkbrauwen. In dit stadium van haar kunstenaarschap is elk werk van De Saint Phalle een open wond, een ontboezemende ontploffing. Ongecompliceerd en daarom des te indringend is Dart Portrait. Het hoofd als dartboard bevestigd boven een witte blouse met een pakje Gauloises. Slachtoffer én beul mogen vooraleer over te gaan tot de executie als laatste wens nog een trekje nemen, aangezien er niet één maar twee sigaretten uit het hemdzakje steken.

Maar de metafoor voor haar afkeer van geweld en van een samenleving die door mannen werd bepaald, kwam het flagrantst tot uiting in de schietschilderijen. De bovenaan het doek bevestigde verfzakjes lieten na trefzekere schoten een spoor van kleur op de gipsbeelden achter. Dat was precies wat ze wilde. De Saint Phalle wilde bloed zien. “In 1961 schoot ik op mijn vader, op alle mannen, op belangrijke mannen, dikke mannen, mijn broer, de samenleving, de kerk, het klooster, school, mijn familie, mijn moeder…”.

Mede door de samenwerking met haar tweede echtgenoot, kunstenaar Jean Tinguely, ontmoet De Saint Phalle andere grote namen uit de kunstwereld. Jasper Johns bijvoorbeeld en de latere pop-art pionier Robert Rauschenberg. Maar ook met John Cage, Marcel Duchamp en Salvador Dali maakt ze kennis. Aan gelijkgestemden en waardering dus geen gebrek. En dat voor iemand die in haar jonge jaren nog als fotomodel poseerde voor Elle en Vogue. Parallel aan de toenemende erkenning en succes verliep haar privéleven tamelijk desastreus. Lange tijd kampte ze met depressies en zenuwinzinkingen en stond ze onder psychiatrische behandeling. Ongetwijfeld is er een gebeurtenis van grote impact geweest op haar leven. De Saint Phalle werd op elfjarige leeftijd door haar vader seksueel misbruikt. Ze schreef er pijnlijk openhartig over in haar autobiografie Mon Secret. Dat openhartige was ook te zien in Daddy, een korte film die ze over dit onderwerp maakte en waarin de beelden een verstikkende vader-dochter relatie suggereren.

SCHUNCK* toont met Outside-In een inzichtelijke afspiegeling van werk én leven van de in 2002 op 71-jarige leeftijd overleden Niki de Saint Phalle. Meer dan honderd kunstwerken zijn er te zien, gelijkmoedig verdeeld over de museumzaal onderin het gebouw. In de entree staan de beelden waarmee De Saint Phalle bekendheid verwierf. Vrouwenfiguren die door hun omvang mannen te kijk zetten. “Ik wilde naar een nieuwe moeder, een moedergodin uitvinden, en in deze vorm worden herboren”, aldus De Saint Phalle. Borsten, buik en dijen zijn dus lekker brutaal ingekleurd. Het hoofd telkens stoïcijns anoniem. Zelfs de beroemde Nanabeelden bleken dus niets minder dan een statement. En ach, de mannelijkheid heeft het toch al zwaar te verduren bij deze tentoonstelling: een gigantische penis ligt opgebaard in een begrafeniskist.

— Harry Prenger, Zwart Goud

Niki de Saint Phalle. Outside-In
(tentoonstelling, SCHUNCK*, Heerlen, van 26 februari t/m 19 juni 2011)

Meer info:
Schunck* Niki-de-Saint-Phalle. Outside In

Website Niki de Saint Phalle:

Image 1 — Niki de Saint Phalle (Photo: Lothar Wolleh)

Image 2 — Autel O.A.S. (222 x 240 x 41 cm) 1962

Image 3 — Autoportrait (141 x 141 x 4 cm) 1958-1959

Image 4 — Shooting Painting American Embassy (245 x 66 x 22 cm) 1961

Image 5 — Niki with rifle

Fond of food, fun, friends and … fish?


LA JOLLA — Passersby might have noticed the large inflatable frog delivering a silent Valentine’s Day greeting in front of Barbarella Restaurant on Avenida de la Playa. Or perhaps they spied the dozens of fuzzy hearts and other love-espousing paraphernalia spread throughout the indoor patio. The holiday flair is just one of many ways that owner and executive chef Barbara Beltaire keeps things playful at her Italian bistro.

Caught within this month’s decorations are two Barbarella mainstays that should not be overlooked. The first is a graceful vase behind the bar, holding roses this time of year, and the second is the pizza oven in the corner, covered in decorated tiles.

Both pieces are by Niki de Saint Phalle, the world-famous French artist whose Sun God sculpture adorns a hill at nearby UCSD. De Saint Phalle lived in La Jolla from 1994 until she passed away in 2002 and was also Beltaire’s unofficial godmother. The vase, the oven and the graphics she designed for the fledgling restaurant reflect the support that de Saint Phalle gave her friend.

“She was a big influence in my life, and I think that her art reminds me of her playfulness. So she brought out the playfulness in me, too.”

Another way Beltaire keeps things playful is with a special “yappy hour” menu, coinciding with happy hour, which offers visiting canines items such as organic eggs, prime beef and even ice cream. If one of her neighborhood dogs is passing by, she might offer up a biscuit personally.

Barbara is decidedly hands-on, so you might see her in as many places throughout the restaurant as the dangling heart-shaped Valentine’s adornments. Along with her staff, Barbarella achieves a dining experience with personality.

That experience might include a beautiful roasted fish, or if you are less ambitious, the seared salmon or the pizza max, which is topped with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. The burgers are also well executed, if unexpected on an Italian menu.

“Believe it or not they do have a hamburger in Italy,” Beltaire insisted.

If you aren’t the type to enjoy the decorations, maybe you’d come just for the food, or the patio well-stocked with both heaters and stacks of blankets. You’d think twice about Halloween, which has become a major investment for Beltaire. But quieter seasons are certainly nothing to be afraid of — the friendly staff, warmth and cozy atmosphere are available year-round.

— Will Parson, La Jolla Light

Barbarella Restaurant and Bar

Address: 2171 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla Shores

The Vibe: Warm, cozy, playful

Signature Dish: Roasted Whole Fish

Open Since: 2000

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday


Phone: (858) 454-7373

Image 1: Niki de Saint Phalle decorated the pizza oven at Barbarella Restaurant and Bar.

Image 2: Specialty of the house — Roasted Whole Fish. (Photos: Will Parson)