Niki de Saint Phalle Introduced to Charlotte

11 Apr

Though she may not be directly connected with Charlotte, Niki de Saint Phalle looms tall over the city and Tryon Street – 17 feet tall to be exact.

Her popular “Firebird” sculpture outside of Charlotte’s one-year-old Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has become a favorite photo stop for Charlotte residents and visitors alike. Now the Bechtler has brought together works by the Franco-American artist introducing Charlotte to an extraordinary career.

Bechtler President and CEO John Boyer

“Our attempt was to capture Niki from her earliest career until the end of her career,” said Bechtler President and CEO John Boyer. “We did our very best to sample her themes over the years.”

The exhibit, Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology, features 60 works on display inside and outside of the museum, including one from the Bechtler collection.

One of the most striking features of the exhibit is the five sculptures on display on the Green across South Tryon Street from the museum. The works, weighing in at more than 13,000 pounds, include representations of golfer Tiger Woods and jazz musician Miles Davis and the brightly colored, giant skull, La Cabeza. All are meant to be touched – and in the case of the skull, climbed in.

A visitor viewing one of the "tableaux eclates"

“Anyone who has an interest in human nature, I would encourage you to sit [on the Green] and watch people’s reactions [to the sculptures],” said Wells Fargo Community Affairs Manager Jay Everette.

Inside the museum are 40 more sculptures, 18 prints and two of de Saint Phalle’s tableaux eclates (or exploding paintings). The exhibit showcases the breadth of the artist’s work, from her whimsical Nanas, to darker pieces, like The Bride, and captures the various themes (femininity, mythology, violence, etc.) of her more than 50-year career.

The exhibit does a great job to bring context to pieces in the Bechtler’s permanent collection, and even works to make the connection between de Saint Phalle and Bechtler family friend and artist Jean Tinguely, whom de Saint Phalle was married to.

La Cabeza

This is the first exhibition of works from outside of the Bechtler collection and is an exciting reminder of the great opportunities and offerings afforded to the community by this new facility and the Levine Center for the Arts as a whole.

The Bechtler Museum plans four events to coincide with the exhibit, including a showing this Friday of the film, Monster in the Forest: The Story of the Cyclop about the creation of the Cyclop sculpture outside of Paris by Tinguely and de Saint Phalle.

The exhibit is at the Bechtler now through October 3.

To find out more information about the exhibit click here.

To find out more about Niki de Saint Phalle click here.

See a slideshow of photos from the exhibit here

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