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Niki de Saint Phalle: Joy of Living

The Weston Gallery
Postponed until further notice

French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle is widely recognised as one of the most significant artists of her generation.

The exhibition Joy of Living brings together sculpture, works on paper and jewellery that demonstrate Saint Phalle’s enthusiasm for the natural world. It features original works on paper depicting animals, such as Gorilla (c.1994-95) and Monkey with Child (1995); bird sculptures from the mid-1970s; and works that reference the biblical story of the serpent as seducer, such as Snake Mirror (1998). Saint Phalle found strength and recovery in creativity and nature after a troubled early life.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) was a major artist of the twentieth century, known for her large-scale and brightly-coloured sculptures, such as Buddha (2000), which has been a powerful presence at YSP since 2013.

Organised in collaboration with Omer Tiroche Gallery, London, Joy of Living shares the artist’s contagious enthusiasm for the natural world through paintings, drawings, sculpture and jewellery. Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, de Saint Phalle grew up in the USA and rebelled against a strict and unhappy upbringing, for example being expelled from a Catholic boarding school for painting the fig leaves on its statues red. Aged 23, she was institutionalised after a mental health crisis, and it was here that she fully understood the benefits of creativity and nature on her wellbeing.

De Saint Phalle became known as an artist in the early 1960s for her Tirs [or ‘Shots’] works, made by shooting at canvasses already loaded with pockets of paint. In 1964 she began to create life-size sculptures of women as a way to consider traditional gender depictions and roles, and is famous for her Nanas – large, maternal figures often in bright colours.

Joy of Living brings together works such as Gorilla (c. 1994-95) and Monkey with Child (1995), that share not only the artist’s engagement with the natural world and its creatures but her major Noah’s Ark project for the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. The exhibition includes a number of bird sculptures, a prevalent theme for the artist in the mid-1970s, alongside pieces incorporating snakes that reference the biblical myth of serpent as seducer – Snake Mirror (1998) and Snake Cufflinks (1971-2015), kindly loaned by Louisa Guinness Gallery.

Associated YSP activity explores the relationship between the wellbeing of humans and of the planet.


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