The Nanas, emblematic sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle

Catherine Marie-Agn├Ęs de Saint-Phalle, nicknamed Niki de Saint Phalle, was born on October 29, 1930 in Neuilly-sur-Seine and died on May 21, 2002 in San Diego. Between these two dates, she was a model, then a mother before starting her artistic career. Niki de Saint Phalle is a French-American printmaker, painter, visual artist, film director, and sculptor. Self-taught, she knew how to approach art by frequenting famous artists. This amazing woman created her first sculpture Nana and other works.

Niki Saint Phalle’s Nanas: what are they?

Actually, the Nanas are monumental sculptures belonging to the group of new realists. These huge dolls are reminiscent of modern women with shapes. They accentuate the female silhouette with curves such as the chest and buttocks. The majority of the Nanas are made of polyester painted in brilliant colors. Niki de Saint Phalle created the Nanas in the late 1960s to embody femininity. This sculpture expresses the freedom and joy of life. It was a gesture by the artist to show her support for the feminist movement of the 80s. Thanks to this famous gigantic sculpture, the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle became popular. Niki’s artworks are present in several museums. Michel Estades art gallery also exhibits nanas.

The “Nanas”: very controversial creations

In the early 70s, even if the nanas dance, they cause pain to male art critics. Pierre Descargues said, “the nanas are partying, it’s at our expense … They trample the army, the belly, morality, etc.” This criticism does not prevent the success of these creations. In 1966, the largest nana (the Hon) was also exhibited at the Moderna Museum in Stockholm. It is a doll of a large size lying down which measures 28m in length, 9m in width, and 6m in height. Thanks to an entrance placed between its legs, the spectators can discover different objects created by the artist. The piece attracted attention because of its strong symbolism. However, Hon was destroyed after the exhibition. All were destroyed in three days.

Where to see Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nanas?

The sculptures Nanas are among the most famous masterpieces of the artist Niki de Saint Phalle. They are present in several countries such as Germany, South Korea, and Hanover. These famous dolls with generous forms are also exhibited at the Grand Palais in Paris, in San Diego in the United States, and in Italy. Indeed, the nanas are often shown to the public. Thus, visitors can discover extraordinary creations that have already been rejected. Through this exhibition, art lovers can feel various emotions of the artist, a mixture of tenderness, sensitivity, and pain. It is possible to discover other archives and works of this Franco-American artist as the Shots, the Cave, the Tarot Garden…