Niki de Saint Phalle - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “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.” Best known for her monumental public works, de Saint Phalle’s unconventional approach to sculpture cemented her place at the center of a male-dominated field, one that she continually challenged in the realms of gender archetypes and orthodoxy. 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.”2 

    In the 1980’s, 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. Head with Snake adopts these ancestral traits with astonishing vitality, a serpent spouting out of a vibrant blue head alive with both fantastical and mythological patterns in its metallic gold, orange, and green designs.



    1  U. Krempel, “The Political Universe in the Art of Niki de Saint Phalle,” 2001, p. 29

    2  Ibid

    • Provenance

      Collection of Billy Wilder, Los Angeles
      Christie's, Los Angeles, 20th Century Art & 20th Century Prints, June 7, 2000, lot 29
      Private Collection
      Christie's, New York, First Open, Post-War and Contemporary Art, September 28, 2016, lot 155


Head with Snake

circa 1985
Plaster multiple with acrylic in colors.
12 x 4 3/4 x 4 3/4 in. (30.5 x 12.1 x 12.1 cm)
Stamp-signed and numbered 5/7 on the underside, fabricated by Niki Plastiques d'Art.

Full Cataloguing

$12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for $15,240

Contact Specialist
212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24-26 October 2023