Land of the Free: Rare Jewellery and Related Drawings by Niki de Saint Phalle

Land of the Free is a selling exhibition of rare wearable sculpture by celebrated 20th century artist Niki de Saint Phalle. The exhibition will include never before seen workshop mock-ups and preliminary drawings of Saint Phalle’s jewellery designs.


Saint Phalle’s work is universal “Everybody loved her; Niki was talented and creative, driven and determined” says Guinness “She was a self taught artist who stood firmly for freedom and freedom of expression; be it women’s rights or civil rights. She was a thoroughly modern woman who paid little attention to minimalism. Her ‘Outsider Art’ is now outsider only so far as you do not need to be an “insider” to understand its message”.


Land of the Free celebrates this Great artists’ staggering ability to translate her powerful visual language into almost any medium or scale. As well as her lesser known wearable sculpture, the show will include unique and editioned large scale sculpture and functional objet. All jewellery edited by GEM MONTEBELLO editions was designed by Niki between 1970 and 1978. Between 1967 and 1978 Montebello worked with some of the finest artists of the 20th century to create jewellery, including Lucio Fontana, Man Ray and Jesus Rafael Soto. Montebello and Saint Phalle started working together in the early 1970s after mutual friends put them in contact. They subsequently became close friends. Niki had plans to make more pieces of jewellery with him and drawings of these unrealised works will also be included in this exhibition. 



Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002)

French artist Niki de Saint Phalle was born in Paris in 1930. Though she is known as a French artist, her mother was American and she spent much of her life in the US. After a troubled and abuse-ridden childhood, Niki eloped with Harry Matthews at the age of 18. Shortly after the birth of her first child she suffered an incapacitating mental breakdown. Art was the means of her recovery. She later moved to Paris where she split from her husband and  became closely involved in Nouveau realism. She also formed a close artistic and romantic partnership with artist Jean Tanguey that lasted many years.

Saint Phalle first came to public attention in the 1960s with her ‘shooting paintings’ in which would cover paint-pots with plaster, fix them to a large canvas, and then shoot at them from a distance  with a 22” rifle, making the painting literally bled.  Saint Phalle is equally known for her iconic Nana’s (french slang for woman), representations of female form with full breasts, round bellies and thick thighs. These brightly coloured  forms offered a ground breaking reimagining of the female form. Saint Phalle was an outspoken advocate of women’s and civil rights and a champion of public art. Her monumental art culminated in her Tarot Garden in Tuscany, Italy; a vast project of 22 monumental, inhabitable sculptures, which took 10 years to complete. She died in 2002.