Niki de Saint Phalle - Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale New York Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Guy Pieters Gallery, Knokke-le-Zoute

  • Exhibited

    Knokke-le-Zoute, Guy Pieters Gallery, Niki de Saint Phalle: Oeuvres récents, August 1991 (another example exhibited)
    Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Niki de Saint Phalle Pontus Hultén, June - November 1992, later traveled to Glasgow, McLellan Galleries (January - April 1993), Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville (June - September 1993) (another example exhibited)
    Basel, Galerie Bonnier, Niki de Saint Phalle, A One-Woman Show, June 1993 (another example exhibited)
    Atlanta, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Niki in the Garden: The Extraordinary Sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle, April - October 2006 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Niki de Saint Phalle: Oeuvres récents, exh. cat., Guy Pieters Gallery, Knokke-le-Zoute, 1991, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Most people don’t see the edginess in my work. They think it’s all fantasy and whimsy.”
    Niki de Saint Phalle, 1998

    Niki de Saint Phalle, whose innovative work in utilitarian sculpture redefined an entire genre of contemporary art, was known as “the beauty who challenged the beast of public taste.” (U. Krempel, “The Political Universe in the Art of Niki de Saint Phalle,”2001, p. 29). In the present lot, Pouf serpent bleu, the coiling form and whimsical application of paint of the feared serpent adds up to far more than a marvelously rendered piece: as observers, we are witnesses to de Saint Phalle’s precise taming of a mythological villain. de Saint Phalle’s unconventional approach to sculpture cemented her place at the center of a male-dominated field, one that, in works such as the present lot, she continually challenged in the realms of gender archetypes and orthodoxy.

    In the 1980s, de Saint Phalle applied her iconic chromatic brushwork, capricious patterns, and untraditional silhouettes to the forms of snakes (a symbol of particular interest to the artist), creating vibrantly painted chairs adorned with geometric patterns. As one of the most ancient mythological symbols, the serpent has been associated with fertility, wisdom, and rebirth. Pouf serpent bleu adopts these ancestral traits with astonishing vitality, the blue coils of the serpent alive with both the natural patterns of the Coral Snake in its reds and yellows, yet fantastical and mythological in its greens, whites, and elemental patterns. Yet, despite the intimidating chromatic structure of the piece, de Saint Phalle’s work maintains an air of approachability for the weary traveler, reimaginging the frightening gaze of the serpent as a good-natured grin. Through her artistic explorations de Saint Phalle carefully approached and rejected the “accepted female role images such as passivity, withdrawal, shyness, and the willingness to play second fiddle, she directed a sharp criticism at the prejudiced images of male society. In her work she left behind the old female roles and formulated new ones and opportunities, thus anticipating the dialectics of the birth of a possible new world from the destruction of the old.” (U. Krempel, “The Political Universe in the Art of Niki de Saint Phalle,”2001, p. 29)


Pouf serpent bleu

painted polyester
70 x 35 x 32 in. (177.8 x 88.9 x 81.3 cm)
Incised with the artist's signature and numbered "Niki de Saint Phalle 1/20" on a brass plate affixed to the base; further stamped with the foundry mark on the base. This work is number 1 from an edition of 20 plus 5 artist's proofs.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $87,500

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale, Contemporary Art
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, Design
New York
+ 1 212 940 1266

Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale

New York Auction 3 March 2015 6pm