Sometimes pictures speak louder than words. For this reason, this post was originally just going to be a gallery of my photos, but I thought I might as well contextualise things a bit first…
Niki de Saint Phalle at the Grand Palais was possibly my favourite exhibition ever.
Model, sculptor, feminist, trend setter: this exhibition catalogues the many different phases of Niki’s life and explores the paradoxical nature of her work. In the spacious rooms of the Grand Palais, we encounter the artist’s confusion, despair, anger, love, frustration, empowerment; her works are both joyful and colourful, yet also more intellectual and profound.
One of the major figures of the Nouveau Réalisme movement in the 1960s, Niki’s goal was to bring art and life closer together. Niki created a new kind of art through her combination of techniques and styles, and her use of various media: sculpture, décolletage, prints, paintings, and even large public installations are displayed alongside each other.
Having rejected the conservative values of her middle class family, the young Franco-American model suffered a nervous breakdown when she found herself living a similarly bourgeois lifesyle. Teaching herself how to paint, art became a form of therapy for Niki; she began to use her paintings as a way of coming to come to terms with her many, conflicting feelings.
Niki’s first works were the ‘Shooting Paintings’ of the 1960s, which she used to try and understand her relationship with her father, and she is most recognised for the ‘Nana’ sculptures, through which she explores the role of women in Western society.
Niki’s work touches on many socio-political issues, and I particularly admired her musings on race, gender issues and violence, although my favourite works were the ‘letters’, which have titles such as ‘Why don’t you love me any more’ and ‘Will you still remember me?’ These little collections of drawings and sketches offer an amazing insight into the way her brain works; the questions she poses are eternally relevant, and her manner is very honest and endearing.
Ideally, you would go to the Grand Palais to see the exhibition for yourself, but here are a few snaps to give you a taste of how special it is. I got quite carried away with the camera, and may have run out of memory on my iphone halfway around…
Niki believed that art is a means to an end; her works speak for themselves. Sometimes pictures really do speak louder than words.