Gallery of Modern Art’s ‘Unprecedented’ Niki de Saint Phalle Haul to Entertain Glasgow


GLASGOW — An “unprecedented” donation has allowed the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art to receive 15 works by larger-than-life French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, complementing four of her existing sculptures and installations in the most significant bequest of modern art ever given to the city’s collection.

A print, wallpaper, rare archive material and sculptures in Saint Phalle’s typically colourful style are among the works arriving following a deal between the Contemporary Art Society and Eric and Jean Cass. They are expected to form an exhibition at the end of 2013.

Blessed with an incredible imagination, Saint Phalle is best known for her legacy of huge public sculptures, which include a winged Sun God on the campus of the University of California, L’Ange Protecteur in the hall of Zurich’s railway station, the monumental Cyclop in her native country and a black and white Golum creature whose hat-trick of blood red tongues act as play slides in Jerusalem.

She was interested in exploring the roles of women in society, frequently designing dolls and depictions of social change such as Miss Black Power at the Hakone Open Air Museum.

Her playfulness and revolutionary edge may have reflected her own background, having left a reputedly conservative family behind, embarked on a teenage modelling career which saw her on the cover of French Vogue, and departed for Massachusetts with her husband at the age of 18.

Easily the most flamboyant expression of Saint Phalle’s designs lies in her Tarot Garden in Tuscany, a riot of enormous sculptures where giant red lips, teetering black and white scales, towering mosaic emperors and trees of life adorn a hill based on the 22 trump cards of the Tarot. She spent 20 years creating it before her death in 2002.

“This extraordinary and generous donation is unprecedented for the gallery,” said Gordon Matheson, the Leader of Glasgow City Council.

“It’s hard to properly express just how grateful we are. These works are unique and beautiful and will captivate and thrill our visitors.”


Image 1: Niki de Saint Phalle, Monkey and Child, Photo © Douglas Atfield

Image 2: Niki de Saint Phalle, Chaise à Serpents (detail), Photo © Douglas Atfield