5th May - 10th June 2000
Niki de Saint Phalle is perhaps best known for her sculptures in the Stravinsky fountain next to the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Her birds and 'Nanas' cavort alongside the iron machinery of Jean Tinguely, Niki's long-time companion. In this, her first London exhibition for nine years, Niki has returned to the sombre themes of her earliest work, created when she was a member of the New Realist movement (1960-63) alongside Arman, Cesar and others. Selecting from the best reliefs and sculptures of the period, Niki entrusted them to the master founder Clementi in Paris, who has produced bronzes of astonishing complexity and beauty. Niki refers to these bronzes as "traces of a dream", a reference to the lingering memories of her mother, whom Niki addresses using the formal 'you' (vous). Central to the show is the towering figure of the bride, seated astride a horse and veiled, the veil being the only uncast element of the sculpture. This one ton, life-size sculpture, with its echoes of classical monuments to warlords and generals, is a central metaphor in Niki's endless search for the freedom she has sought both as artist and woman. As Niki says: MARIAGE ! MARIAGE ! It's a leitmotif. All the girls of my generation were brought up in the belief that one had TO MARRY AND MARRY YOUNG. TODAY I cannot escape my emotions except in work... ART has been my closest friend and without it, I would have died long ago. Niki de Saint Phalle was born in Paris in 1930 and was brought up in New York. After a brief career as a model, gracing the covers of Vogue and Life magazines, she turned to art and held her first exhibition in 1956. Since then, Niki has had retrospectives at the Pompidou Centre and the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris, the Federal Museum in Bonn, the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow and a touring retrospective in Latin America. Niki has recently completed a major work in Garavicchio, Tuscany. It consists of 22 monumental sculptures, some habitable, covered in mosaic and featuring the work of other artists, notably Jean Tinguely and Alan Davie. The Tarot Garden, as it is known, is now open to the public.