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Exhibits & Museums

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The Nanas Are Coming! The Nanas Are Coming!

On 25, Mar 2010 | No Comments | In Artists, Exhibits & Museums, Modern | By man-admin

We are absolutely thrilled to pass along word that the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC is going to display works by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) right smack dab in the middle of one of that city’s major traffic arteries — New York Avenue.

(Illustration by Jaroslaw Bleda, Courtesy of NMWA)

Four excellent representatives of the artist’s ouevre, Nana on a Dolphin, 1998 and L’arbre serpents (Serpent Tree), #23 Basketball Player and Les trois graces (The Three Graces) all from 1999 will be on view April 28th through sometime in September. The exhibit is Phase 1 of the museum’s New York Avenue Sculpture Project, “the first and only major outdoor sculpture corridor in the nation’s capitol, featuring changing installations of world-class art by women.”

From NMWA’s press release:

The nine 15- foot high whimsical, visually playful and colorful works celebrate women, children, heroes, cultural diversity an love. the works represent major themes within Saint Phalle’s career, including the Nanas, Black Heroes, Animals and totem. The works were selected in consultation with the Niki Charitable Art Trust and federal and local agencies.

Nana on a Dolphin, 1998 Photo by Lech Juretko
Copyright Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved

We spoke with curator Kathryn A. Wat whose enthusiasm for Saint Phalle’s work is genuine. “Saint Phalle’s sculptures are visually playful, but they are also thematically provocative and enigmatic” she said. An example: “In referring to her female figures as Nanas– ‘chicks’ or ‘broads’ in English — Saint Phalle made an ironic allusion to the politically charged place of the liberated woman in the twentieth century.”

Nana noir (part of The Three Graces) 1999
Copyright 2010 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved

In an article in the Winter/Spring edition of the museum’s magazine, Wat also writes:

With their intense colors and organic shapes, Saint Phalle’s Nanas and sculptures in other series, including animals, totems and “Black Heroes,” are joyful expressions of love and diversity. yet these works also suggest Saint Phalle’s keen awareness of human folly and fear.

#23 Basketball Player, 1999 Photo by Thomas Marlow
Copyright Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved

Ms. Wat gave us an interesting insight into #23 Basketball Player (above). We had often wondered what the meaning of the mirrored figure was below the player. Wat explained: “That is the spirit of the game pushing the player upward.” Love that.

Saint Phalle’s sculptures will be placed right in front of the museum itself in the median at 13th Street and New York Avenue. We understand that the gift shop is quickly turning into Niki Heaven, a terrible temptation. Lucky for us, we already have our own private Nana.

For more information on the exhibit, please go to
To learn more about Saint Phalle:

Enjoy — Nancie

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