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Niki de Saint-Phalle - vendere e comprare opere

29 October 1930, Neuilly-sur-Seine (France) - 21 May 2002, San Diego (USA)

Niki de Saint-Phalle is among the best-known artists of the 20th century. The variegated sculptures and architectural works by the self-taught sculptor and painter are found in public spaces worldwide. Known as Nanas, her rotund, cheerful female figures are particularly popular. 

Catherine Marie-Agnes Comtesse Fal de Saint-Phalle, known as Niki, was born as the daughter of a French banker and an American to the north of Paris. Her father lost his fortune during the historical stock market crash of 1929, and the family relocated to the United States a few years later. Niki was considered a difficult child at school. It later became apparent that this was due to sexual abuse by her father at the age of eleven.

She ran away from her parental home in 1948, married and gave birth to a daughter. Saint-Phalle returned to Paris with her new family and later became mother to a son. By the 1950s, she was no longer able to suppress the psychological damage she had suffered in her childhood, receiving treatment in a psychiatric facility after several nervous breakdowns. Saint-Phalle started to paint and express herself artistically during this period, believing it to be the only way to free herself of internal fears.

She had a strong interest in contemporary art, which brought her into contact with several important artists of this period, among them Jackson Pollock, Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely from Switzerland, who became Saint-Phalle’s second husband in 1971. They cooperated closely as artists.

Initially she created assemblies made of waste, shards and plaster, producing her ‘shooting paintings’. This involved preparing plaster reliefs with bags of paint and then firing at them with a gun. The paint erupted over the figures, symbolising men in general as well as herself. These performances were classified as Nouveau Réalisme.

In 1962, Saint-Phalle exhibited her works with several object artists in Amsterdam.

From 1965 onwards, once her aggression had subsided, the artist sought to express female strength in the form of outlandishly sized, dancing, feminine forms, which she fashioned from wire and papier-mâché, later on in polyester. Visitors to exhibitions in New York and many cities of Europe were able to admire and even walk through these huge sculptures.

She created her life’s work in 1979, the Giardino dei Tarocchi in Tuscany. From 1982 onward, she collaborated with her husband on what is likely most prominent piece - the Stravinsky Fountain in Paris.

The colourful artworks by Niki de Saint-Phalle have featured in several Dorotheum auctions. A hand-coloured polyester multiple from 1980 entitled Les Baigneurs was sold for €68,275 on 24 November 2016.