Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Locals Only: NY Avenue To Get More Phalle-ic

An artist's rendering of the New York Avenue Sculpture Project, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. (Jaroslaw Bieda)

I'm thrilled to hear that the weird, ugly section of NY Avenue in front of the Museum for Women in the Arts* is soon going to host a parade of Niki de Saint Phalle's fun, cheerful, technicolor sculptures. Oh, sure, they'll be vandalized within twelve hours of being installed, but it'll be worth it.

I've always had a soft spot for her work, ever since I saw her cartoonish fountain outside the Centre Pompidou in Paris. When I went to UCSD, I appreciated the presence of her Sun God, a profoundly ridiculous public sculpture.

I have no idea what kind of reputation Niki de Saint Phalle, perhaps best known to the public for her perfume bottles, enjoys in the academic art world. I'm assuming her work is looked down upon, because nothing annoys academics quite as much as the intrusion of fun and cheerfulness in art. It's an instant critical death sentence.

Lucky for you I work in a veritable hive of such academics, so I'll ask around today and try to find out.

*I'm unimpressed with the publicity for this fairly major event: nothing on the NMWA web site; nothing on the Niki de Saint Phalle Foundation's web site. Are they trying to keep this secret?

UPDATE: "Her work kind of falls outside academia," is how one colleague put it. Several others used the word "dated" to refer to her work. This is pretty much what I expected.

UPDATE: I cornered a relevant curator (who will remain anonymous) and had the following conversation:

Me: What do you think of Niki de Saint Phalle's work?
Curator: Well... I don't.

So the work of Saint Phalle occupies an in-between place in the low art/high art debate (where "cartoonish" is always a put-down). I guess you could call it fine-ish art. Other examples of this purgatory include Keith Haring, the West Coast "Kustom Kulture" painters of the 90s, Barry Flanagan (ugh), and Kenny Scharf.


samael7 said...

She's the one responsible for the Centre Pompidou fountain? With the lips?! I love that fountain! I spent a good while enjoying it when I visited that area of Paris years ago.

It normally would have stuck out in Paris, except that it is, after all, right next to the sticky-outie Centre Pompidou. I remember lots of families and kids around the fountain, and they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

HRH King Friday XIII, Ret. said...

In that area there should be a giant crack pipe sculpture. Functional, of course.

Alex said...

I just got back from a week in Mexico City, where the museums are just amazing. I find that contemporary art in Latin America is given much more permission to be fun than art in North America is. I laughed out loud a couple of times in the Museo de Arte Moderno, which is something I haven't done in a US museum for a while (well, maybe I've laughed at some art, but I haven't laughed with any art the way you find yourself doing with Latin American stuff).

Juliana said...

Well bless her heart.

Karen Zipdrive said...

I love stuff like that.