Our highlight in spring 2023: The SCHIRN presents Niki de Saint Phalle in a comprehensive survey exhibition and shows the many facets of the famous autodidact.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002) is one of the most famous women artists of her generation and is deemed one of the main representatives of European Pop Art and a cofounder of the Happening. From February 3 to May 21, 2023, the SCHIRN will be illuminating the history and wide-ranging oeuvre of this visionary Franco-American artist in a comprehensive exhibition which offers an overview of all phases of her oeuvre featuring some 100 works. 

In the five decades of her creative work, Niki de Saint Phalle developed an unmistakable language of form and a multifaceted oeuvre. The "Nanas", her colorful large-format sculptures of women, laid the foundations for her international success and are regarded to this day as her trademark. However, Niki de Saint Phalle was an autodidact whose artistic spectrum also extended far beyond these pieces.

Niki de Saint Phalle, Nana rouge jambes en l'air (Red Nana Legs in the Air), ca. 1968, Painted polyester on iron wire, 220 x 185 x 120 cm, Leopold-Hoesch Museum, Düren / Peter Hirnschläger, Aachen, © 2022 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved / ADAGP, Paris

She focused on different techniques, topics, and working methods and created ambivalent and subversive works full of joy and brutality, humor and waywardness. For her, art was more than just a means of expression: for biographical reasons she saw it as a necessity, and it also served to question social conventions. She criticized institutions and role models and took an artistic approach to dealing with social and political topics like stigmatization through AIDS, the right to abortion, gun control laws, and climate change.

A Plea for women and the feminine

Early in her career, Saint Phalle abandoned painting and voiced in her creative work a plea for women and the feminine. Her early paintings were followed by assemblages, and by the 1960s she was creating her legendary Shooting Pictures or Tirs in spectacular performances, in which she involved the audience. Her drawings, writings, and large-scale sculptures, as well as plays, films, and installations in public space, bear witness to the transformative effect of her art, which reached its climax in her architectural life work, the Tarot Garden in Tuscany.

Niki de Saint Phalle, Global Warming, 2001, Lithograph, stickers, 56.5 x 62 cm, Image: Ed. 2/50, loan in the exhibition: Ed. 50/50, Musée d'art et d'histoire Fribourg / Ed Kessler, © 2022 Niki Charitable Art Foundation / ADAGP, Paris


FEBRUARY, 3 – MAY 21, 2023