Niki de Saint Phalle American/ French

Niki De Saint Phalle (1930-2002) is a French American sculptor, writer, stage designer and filmmaker. A self-taught artist, on her return to Europe she began to work in a style similar to art brut. She first came to public attention through ironic parodies of Art informel painting, comprising plaster reliefs incorporating pockets of paint, which burst when fired at by visitors to the exhibition, thus staining the surface. Through these works Saint Phalle became associated with Nouveau réalisme. She produced reliefs and sculptures made of objets trouvés and plastic toys; these were always playful and imaginary. Monsters and other fantastic creatures were also among her favourite themes, while other assemblages were in the form of iconoclastic altars.

Saint Phalle's next series were concerned with the representation of women. This led to the Nanas series, begun in 1964; daubed in bright colours, the larger-than-life athletic females glorified an art of play and festivity. The apotheosis was the monumental She: A Cathedral (1966; Stockholm, Mod. Mus.; destr.); constructed in collaboration with Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultveldt, it was a huge shell of a reclining woman, 28 m long, inside which were rooms, including a cinema and a bar. Thereafter Saint Phalle devoted herself mainly to monumental sculptures, sometimes intended more directly for children. Saint Phalle also produced several illustrated books, designed sets for the ballet and made films, including Daddy (1973). In 1986 she published Aids, You Can't Catch it Holding Hands (Munich), a combination of words and images.