|Niki de Saint Phalle
July 12th-November 15th, 2012
Park Avenue from 52nd Street to 60th Streets in New York City
Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) was a prominent French-American artist, self-taught sculptor, painter, and filmmaker. Born in Neuilly Sur Seine, Saint Phalle died at the age of 71 in La Jolla, California. Jean Tinguely (1925-1991), the Swiss-born painter and sculptor, was her long-time partner and collaborator.
Through her work, the multi-faceted Saint Phalle created a unique universe that established her international reputation. Some of her best-known public sculptures are The Stravinsky Fountain next to the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1983), The Tarot Garden at Garvicchio in southern Tuscany (opened 1998), The Grotto in Hannover's Royal Herrenhausen Garden (2003, finished posthumously), and the Queen Califia's Magical Circle in California (2003).
I first photographed Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely in 1968 when their sculptures were shown at Central Park's Conservatory Garden. I continued to take pictures of Niki over the years — in Paris, and at the renowned Chelsea Hotel where she hung out with Larry and Clarice Rivers.
|Niki de Saint Phalle with Jean Tinguely at the Conservatory Garden, photographed by Jill Krementz (1968).
Now, to mark the ten-year commemoration of the artist's death, there are nine monumental pieces on display at the Park Avenue Malls from 52nd Street to 60th Street. The sculptures, towering as high as 16 feet and as wide as 13 feet, are made of polyester resin, with mosaics of ceramic, mirror, and stained glass.
They are as pretty at night as during the day because of the magical manner that the inlaid bits of mosaic reflect the headlights from the passing cars. Tuesday night, returning home by cab from the Whitney via Park Avenue, I took it upon myself to act as the driver's docent. At the end of my guided tour he said: "Wow, that was great. I've learned so much. I don't know why they never show you the good things on TV. It's always just the muggings and the shootings." So I gave him my New York Social Diary card and told him to log on. I hope he's reading this.
The retrospective exhibition is sponsored by the Nohra Haime Gallery and the Niki Charitable Art Foundation, and is organized under the auspices of the Sculpture Committee of the Fund for Park Avenue and the Public Art Program of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The Parks Department's Art & Antiquities division, under the leadership of director Jonathan Kuhn, oversees the placement, display, and care of permanent and temporary art in all the city's parks.