Niki de Saint Phalle has a long association with the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. When the Gallery was being converted she created the mirrored mosaic on the outside of the building which depicts the St Mungo legend, including the fish, the tree, the bell and the ring, which you can see on the triangular pediment of the building. She also created the mirrored entrance hall. Following an exhibition of her work at the McLellan Galleries she gave two sculptures to Glasgow – these were The Great Devil and the Altar to a Dead Cat.
This exhibition is based around a generous donation by Eric and Jean Cass. They have collected contemporary art for over 30 years and were looking to distribute that art to museums and galleries around the UK. Knowing Glasgow’s association with Niki de Saint Phalle they offered some of her work to Glasgow to form part of the permanent collection. This exhibition includes these new works as well as her original gifted sculptures, which were on view for many years when the Gallery of Modern Art first opened.
It’s a fabulous exhibition – very accessible with bright colours and beautiful pieces which you could imagine owning. There are some dark background stories to some of her more colourful pieces but her only truly dark piece on show is the Altar to a Dead Cat. Many of the pieces come from her imagination and dreams. There is a little brightly coloured frog (grenouille in French) which is a lovely thing to look at but if you look closely you can see that he has doesn’t look very happy.
The Great Devil (1985) is a massive sculpture which used to stand in the entrance to the Gallery. This was one of the artist’s gifts to the City and she said that she was often scared whilst creating this piece. You can see how she was influenced by Gaudi’s work in Barcelona.
The Altar to a Dead Cat (1962) was created out of all the things which had happened to in her life including her strict Catholic upbringing and abuse by her father. She would shoot at the object which caused the paint cans attached to the piece to explode. There are two accompanying films which show how it was created and how the conservation team today prevent any deterioration.
There are also practical pieces including a plant holder and a side table, which Eric and Jean used within their home.
If you are visiting the Pompidou Centre in Paris you will see Niki de Saint Phalle’s work in a fountain which sits next to this Gallery which comprises of sculptures representing the work of the composter Igor Stravinsky.
Allocate an hour for this exhibition to take in all the films and background information for this beautiful and enigmatic artist.
Exhibition on until 16 November 2013 at The Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow
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