Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s

Jill Dawsey and Michelle White; With contributions by Amelia Jones, Alena J. Williams, Ariana Reines, Kyla McDonald, and Molly Everett

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A timely reassessment of the artist’s early performances and feminist sculptures, affirming their radical engagements and art historical significance

This volume is a focused look at two bodies of work, the Tirs (“shooting paintings”) and Nanas (“dames”), in the experimental 1960s practice of the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002). Alongside a poetic response to the work, four essays treat Saint Phalle’s oeuvre as works of radical performance and feminist art, as well as highlighting her transatlantic projects and collaborations. A chronology with photo-documentation and known participants details for the first time all Tirs shooting events in Europe and the United States, and another timeline recaps Saint Phalle’s life in the 1960s. 

Tirs were made by firing a .22 caliber rifle at the surfaces of paintings. The bullets pierced bags of pigment, aerosol paint cans, or even food embedded in dense assemblages covered in painted plaster. Saint Phalle’s increasingly liberated female figures with outstretched arms, curvaceous forms, and powerful poses developed into her well-known Nanas, an evolution contemporaneous with the rise of a Euro-American feminist movement.

Jill Dawsey is curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Michelle White is senior curator at the Menil Collection, Houston.


Menil Collection, Houston
(September 10, 2021–January 23, 2022)

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
(April 3–July 17, 2022)

ISBN: 9780300260106
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Publishing Partner: Distributed for the Menil Collection and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
248 pages, 7 1/4 x 10
135 color + b/w illus.
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