Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002)

The beautiful model Niki de Saint Phalle started painting while she was recovering from a breakdown, following the collapse of her marriage and the effects of her father’s sexual abuse in her childhood. Her first paintings, bright but clumsy efforts, were of a marvellous, magical garden where she would have liked to be (like Nek Chand Saini’s creation in Chandigarh).  When she recovered she started hanging about with artists and, dressed in an immaculate, body-hugging white suit, she began shooting her paintings, aiming at bladders of pigment buried in white plaster that bled when her bullets ripped into them. Later she made assemblages with crucified cats and white-veiled brides and, with the help of her second husband Jean Tinguely, began to build the garden she had dreamed of during her breakdown. It took her twenty years to create one of the most enchanting and enchanted places in the world 

Niki de Saint Phalle was, I believe, the greatest woman artist of the late 20th century.  Her work is about femininity in the embrace of love and death; only a woman could have created her art. That’s one reason why it is so distinct in history and in contemporary art. Her art stands as a beacon on the brink of the 21st century, when men will increasingly leave it to women to heal the wounds they’ve inflicted on the world.

For more information please visit Niki’s website:

Giardino dei Tarocchi (Tarot Garden)  1979-98
Garavicchio, Italy
Julian Spalding and Niki de Saint Phalle talking

Giardino dei Tarocchi  (Tarot Garden)  1979-98
Garavicchio, Italy
general view