Thursday, May 11, 2006

Niki in the Garden

Segue now from Monet's Garden yesterday to the Atlanta Botanical Garden where Niki de Saint Phalle's sculpures are on exhibition through October: the world's largest exhibition of her outdoor sculptures ever presented, traveling here from Switzerland, Germany, France and California!

Oisea de Feu sur l' Arche, 1993

We first heard of Niki (1930 - 2002) last year in Hannover, Germany, where 3 of her Nanas (scroll down in this link to see 2 of them) are permanently displayed on the bank of the Leine River, along with her grotto at the Herrenhäuser Royal Gardens and her exhibition at the Sprengel Museum there.

But NEVER in all my born days did I expect to find her HERE in Atlanta, my own back yard. It's like we brought Hannover back home with us!

Atlanta's exhibition is divided into 4 categories, as follows:

NANAS: Niki is best known for these "chicks" or "babes" (French) that are larger-than-life personifications of feminine power . Totally uninhibited and voluptuous, she calls them "heralds of a new matriarchal age."

HEROES: When Niki reflected on her own upbringing, she realized she lacked heroines as a child. Later, she wished for heroes for her great-grandson, and started sculpting a "Black Heroes" series that would give him people to look up to: Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and several sports' figures (see my album's basketball, baseball and golf pics).

TOTEMS: In 1993 Niki was inspired by Native American traditions (no wonder I love her!) and began researching and designing totems. Before finalizing her designs, she sought out the advice and approval of representatives from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. That's how much she respected the spiritual concepts of their culture!

ANIMALS: Niki loved fantastical animals and loved seeing children climb on and through them. In her auto- biography, Traces, she said, "Nature, dragons, monsters and animals have kept me in touch with the feelings I had about these things as a child. I feel that the part of me that stayed a child is the artist in me." This particular one she calls the "Nikigator!"

My photo album also contains some miscellaneous pieces that don't fit into these 4 categories but are there nonetheless, masterpieces of her incredible, prolific, creative spirit. Donica had a co-worker from Hannover in training here last week, and because Elke knew about Niki already, we did a fast, one-hour run-through of the gardens after a torrential downpour. Because it was a Thursday evening, when the garden is having "Niki Nights" throughout the exhibition, we were able to see some of the sculptures in a before-and-after sunset light, as the album shows.

Niki "was a citizen of the world: she was born near Paris, raised in New York, traveled in Europe and later worked in Switzerland, France, Israel, Italy, and finally California."

There is Soulful and there is SOULFUL. I told Donica that while working on this album I was in a SOULFUL "eternalized moment" that cannot be described or explained. She is definitely one of The Five People [I] Meet in Heaven some day, I hope! And we will definitely go back to see her again when we can take more time!


  1. What beauty-full, joy-full, soul-full pieces of art!

  2. TO: Yes, indeed. In all your travels, I wonder if you've seen her work?

    Amy: I definitely want you to go see this before it ends in October. It's a date! I even think Nicholas would enjoy it. Would love to see him on the Nikigator :)

  3. ginnie - I think her work is/or was displayed in the Zurich train station... I found my post on her and it is! I'm so fascinated by her work so I so know what you mean...

    Check out this post

  4. ET, I love your link and have just learned, because of it, that the 3 Nanas in Hannover are named Sophie, Charlotte, and Caroline in honour of historically prominent locals. How nice to know! Thanks!

  5. Wow! These are impressive sculptures. I especially like the totems and animals.

  6. Great images! I know Niki's sculptures from a visit in Paris a long while (somewhere in the eighties, when I remember correctly) ago. Great to have this beautiful reminder.

  7. I didn't know her. I really enjoy her sculptures! They are really nice and creative. A model for us all!

  8. I feel her power through your post, and how she "sends" you. I still have my postcard at the office (I'm at home so I can't recall which of her pieces . . I'll look when I get there this morning.)

  9. Tim: And they're bigger than life! You'd be amazed by all of them.

    KPK: So glad you've seen her. I wish everyone could. There's nothing like seeing the real thing to believe what she did.

    Mei: You especially would love her work because of all YOUR creativity!

    Ruth: I think the postcard we sent you was of something in the Grotto at the Herrenhäuser Gardens. All THOSE images were on the walls and were not free-standing sculptures. Sculptures on the wall! Oh my.

  10. I've seen those wild women before but I never knew who they were done by!

  11. yeah Ginnie - happy to help you learn more. :)

  12. I love Niki de Saint Phalle's works. I think she worked in collaboration with Jean Tinguely, a Swiss painter and sculptor (passed away in 1991). They were married in the early 70's. The Tinguely meuseum is very well known in Basel and also show a few Saint Phalle.

  13. TO: Wild women is right :) I love them!

    ET: Indeed :)

    CS: Yes, I'm learning all about her marriage to Tinguely and how in the beginning he was thought to overshadow her work. But now they're saying NO. Her work really did stand the test of time.

  14. Now THIS is what I should have been doing with my downtime in Alanta instead of hibernating in the hotel. I really should have gotten out more.

  15. Well, yes, Mr. Fab, except that this particular exhibition didn't start until a week ago. Wish you could see it. You'd be totally blowm away.

  16. Wow, I love these sculptures!! They are wonderful, and so colourful. I love colour!

  17. I saw Niki's sculptures in Paris, in a fountain near the Centre Georges Pompidou, "la fontaine Stravinsky". I just loved it! It is totally joyful and playful!

    And Ginnie, you must show that to Nicholas, it will be a great experience for him!

  18. DW: Her sculptures are definitely colorful!!

    Clo: So glad you've seen her work. And I totally agree that Nicholas would get something out of the exhibition!