Niki & Jean, l'Art et l'Amour

29 August 2006 – 4 March 2007

The Artists
Presents the works of both artists separately from their beginnings in Paris in the early 1950s throughout their career. Both adhere to the French art movement “Les Nouveaux Réalistes”, founded in 1960 by the Parisian critic Pierre Restany, bringing together artists like Yves Klein, César, Christo and Daniel Spoerri. In Paris, they also meet young American artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

The Collaboration
Among the most interesting moments in the two artists’ lives are those of their intense artistic collaboration following different modes, and different stages or depths. They function as each other’s assistant, advisor, instigator of ideas, co-creator: Tinguely often contributes technical assistance and Niki her fantasy and ideas such as “You could put some feathers on your things …”, which Jean does, thereby creating his important series of “Baloubas”.

There are also sculptures, which they create together, such as Assemblage with Fire-Engine in 1960, or Portrait sur patins à roulettes in 1961, the monumental HON at the Moderna Museet in 1966 (destroyed, but documented through photos, films, drawings, posters, etc.), the even more gigantic Cyclop or Niki’s Tarot-Garden. Later sculptural works are Le Dragon (1988) or L’Illumination (1988), as well as the fountains in Paris (Fontaine Stravinsky, 1984) and in Château Chinon (1988), in which both artists collaborate directly.

Apart from the sculptures, there are Niki’s films, in which Tinguely plays an important role and Tinguely’s happenings of the early 1960s, in which Niki participates actively; and then there are the happenings, in which both of them cooperate with other artists like Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, David Tudor or Nicolas Petit.

The Love
Throughout their lives both artists carry on an intense exchange of letters – to each other, but also to third parties such as Pontus Hulten, the lifelong friend of Niki and Jean, director of the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and first director of LA MOCA.

Their letters to each other reveal the intensity of their relationship, also the many friendships they forge with others; they speak of their artistic projects and about life, about the gain and loss of love and partner. The letters and the partly-published writings of Niki de Saint Phalle attest to an adventurous love between two radically independent personalities.