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Retrospective of Niki de Saint Phalle to Open at Nelson-Atkins


Artist’s Exuberant Works Delight While Tackling Social Issues

Kansas City, MO. March 6, 2024–The first full-career U.S. retrospective of French American avant-garde artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) opens April 27 at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Saint Phalle’s highly accessible works in two- and three-dimensions resonate with visitors of all ages and sophistication levels. Most of the pieces that will be on view have never been seen before in the U.S. Niki de Saint Phalle: Rebellion and Joy closes July 21, 2024.

“Saint Phalle is one of the late twentieth century’s great creative personalities who was ahead of her time,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director & CEO of the Nelson-Atkins. “This exhibition presents the arc of her career from societal rage to communal joy and celebration.”

Saint Phalle’s magic is the multiplicity of her work and her ability to discuss serious issues in an easily accessible way.Ange Jaune - Niki de Saint Phalle

“This exhibition traces the chronology of Saint Phalle’s career, from her assemblages to works addressing social justice issues,” said William Keyse Rudolph, Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs and Chief Curator and Head, Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts. “Her bold forms, bright colors, and exuberant imagery catch the eye while simultaneously tackling social issues such as feminism, racism, and HIV/AIDS stigma.”

Rudolph is co-curating the exhibition with Helene Guenin, Director of MAMAC, and Olivier Bergesi, Project Manager, MAMAC.

One of the most imaginative artists of the second half of the 20th century, the self-taught Saint Phalle burst upon the international art world in the 1960s as a rebel. First, she literally shot things up: firing .22 caliber rifles at plaster-covered paintings that contained hidden bags of liquid paint. Next, Saint Phalle created a joyous, distinctive language of iconic female forms called “Nanas”, which are powerful feminist celebrations of womanhood. Over many years, she created complex, immersive public art environments to free art from the walls of museums, self-financing these projects through creating replicas and licensed objects. All along, she also used her art to address issues of the day, including a commitment to social justice and as a supportive and educational way to fight the stigma of the emerging AIDS epidemic.

Saint Phalle truly believed that art could change the world.

The objects in this exhibition are drawn from the Musée d’Art Moderne et de Contemporain (MAMAC) in Nice, France, which houses one of the largest collections of her work, as well as the Niki Charitable Art Foundation. Nearly 100 paintings, sculptures, prints, and films will be on view.

The following program is associated with this exhibition:

Artists at Play
Friday, May 17 6–8 p.m.
Classroom 4 & 5
$50 public | $40 Members
Explore the creative vision of Niki de Saint Phalle, renowned for her bold and imaginative sculptures, paintings, and public art installations, then get creative in 3D! Design a playful work of art with a friend or on your own to take with you at the end of the night. All skill levels are welcome, and all supplies are provided.

See nelson-atkins.org for the latest program updates.

Musée d'Art Moderne ad d'Art Contemporain logoManifesto Expo LogoNiki Charitable Art Foundation

Organized by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice, France, in collaboration with Manifesto Expo.

Image captions:
Artist Niki de Saint Phalle with her inflatable Nanas sur la plage sculptures. Featured in Vogue, April 15, 1968. Photograph by Bert Stern © 2023 Condé Nast.
Niki de Saint Phalle, French-American, 1930–2002. Angel (yellow). Collection MAMAC, Nice, France; Gift of the artist, 2001. © 2023 Niki Charitable Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds.

The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of more than 42,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and Native American and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the museum is a key educational resource for the region.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary, Nice (France)

The MAMAC is one of France’s leading museums of contemporary art. Recognized for its post-war collection, it offers a specific focus on the 1960’s decade, bringing together national and international artists, particularly from New realism and Pop Art movements.

MAMAC owns one of the world’s three reference collections of Niki de Saint Phalle, with 195 works ranging from her first paintings and assemblages from the 1950s; the very first shooting paintings of the early 1960s; the iconic “nanas” and brides, to her prolific prints. A year before her death in 2002, the French American artist donated 190 works to the MAMAC and the city of Nice, where she had spent almost a year in 1953. A gesture that testifies to her generosity and commitment to others.

The MAMAC closed its doors early 2024 for a four years renovation project. One of the spearheads during the museum’s large-scale renovation is to keep the collection visible. The exhibitions and loans ensure that people in Nice, France, but also on different continents can acquaint themselves with the city of Nice’s art collection.

For media interested in receiving further information, please contact:

Kathleen Leighton, Manager, Media Relations and Video Production
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art