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Niki de Saint Phalle


Spirit of the Women's Hall of Fame

Niki was born Catherine Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle on October 29, 1930 at Neuilly-sur-Seine in France. After a childhood of moving and changing schools often, she married prominent New York author Harry Mathews. A personal crisis led her to painting and she decided to become an artist in the early 1950s. Experimental assemblages gave way to “Tirs,” or shooting paintings, bringing de Saint Phalle international fame and membership in 1961 with a group of artists, the “New Realists,” which also included Christo, Yves Klein, Arman and Jean Tinguely, among others. A close relationship with Swiss kinetic sculptor Jean Tinguely developed into creative collaboration and marriage in 1971. They worked together for the construction of many of de Saint Phalle’s major sculpture projects, like Hon in Stockholm (1966), Paradis Fantastique (1967), Golem in Jerusalem (1972), Tarot Garden in Italy (1980-1998) and Stravinsky Fountain in Paris (1983). She never stopped exploring and worked with different materials, may it be polyester, bronze, or mosaic. Other monumental projects of de Saint Phalle include the UC San Diego’s Sun God (1983), Noah’s Ark in Jerusalem (1998), the Grotto at the Royal Gardens of Hannover (1996 - 2003), and Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido (1999 - 2003). Niki de Saint Phalle died on May 21, 2002 in La Jolla, California.

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