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  • Niki de Saint Phalle Kennedy-Kroutchev 1962
    Niki de Saint Phalle
    Kennedy-Kroutchev 1962
    Paint, wire mesh and various objects on wood
    2000 x 1200 x 200 mm
  • Niki de Saint Phalle, 'Shooting Picture' 1961
    Niki de Saint Phalle
    Shooting Picture 1961
    Plaster, paint, string, polythene and wire on wood
    object: 1430 x 780 x 81 mm
    Purchased 1984© The estate of Niki de Saint Phalle
  • Niki de Saint Phalle Old Master non tire c.1961
    Niki de Saint Phalle
    Old Master (non tire) c.1961
    Plaster on panel in an antique golden wooden frame
    355 x 320 mm

The Shooting Paintings

It was an amazing feeling shooting at a painting and watching it transform itself into a new being. It was not only EXCITING and SEXY, but TRAGIC – as though we were witnessing a birth and a death at the same moment.

In the early 1960s Saint Phalle was living and working in Paris surrounded by artists, curators and art critics. The violence of her assemblages grew into a new series of works – the Shooting Paintings – that were to stimulate and shock a wider public, and establish her as a major artist internationally. 

The Shooting Paintings, a development of her ‘Target Portraits’ in which the head of her lover was replaced by a dartboard, explored the violence inherent in much abstract art of the time, and can be read as a parody of the machismo of action painting. Embedding pockets filled with paint and foodstuffs in thick layers of plaster on canvas, Saint Phalle and invited collaborators, including Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, shot at the paintings to make them ‘bleed’. Like her assemblages, these works became a release for the artist’s outrage allowing her to find a new creativity born from destruction. It was at one of the first ‘shoot-outs’ that she met Pierre Restany, the critic and theorist behind the Nouveau Realistes, who invited her to join the group.

Performing public ‘shoot-outs’ in France and America, Saint Phalle defied all that angered her. She shot at patriarchal society and political crisis. Driven by contemporary events, as much as by personal anguish, many of the Shooting Paintings have a political resonance. Kennedy-Khrushchev 1962, for example, was made shortly after a meeting between the two leaders of the political superpowers. The critical acclaim achieved by these works and performances brought about an equality with her fellow male artists – something she strove to maintain for the rest of her life.

Other works in this room

Saint-Sebastien or Portrait of my Lover 1961
Paint, wood and various objects (shirt, tie, target, darts, nails…) on wood
720 x 550 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Shooting suit 1962
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Long Rifle 1962
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Hommage to Bob Rauschenberg (Shot by Rauschenberg) 1961
Paint, plaster and various objects on wood shutter
1880 x 550 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Dragon de Berlin 1963
Paint, plaster, wire mesh and various objects on wood
1800 x 1100 x 340 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Heads of State (Study for King Kong) 1963
Paint and masks on wood  1250 x 2500 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Grand Tir, Seance, Galerie J. 1961
Paint, plaster and various objects on plywood
1430 x 770 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Tir a raquette Seance Galerie J., 30 June - 12 July 1961 1961
Gold paint, plaster and various objects on wood
600 x 350 x 110 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Old Master – Seance Galerie J., 30 June – 12 July 1961 1961
Paint, plaster and wire mesh on panel in an antique frame
730 x 620 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

White Gremlin c.1963–4
Various objects and fabric on wire mesh
800 x 500 x 500 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Shooting Painting American Embassy, 20 June 1961, Paris 1961
Paint, plaster and various objects on wood
2450 x 660 x 220 mm
Artist’s collection. In deposit at Mamac, Nice

Venus de Milo 1962
Paint and plaster on metal structure
1930 x 635 x 635 mm
Artist’s Collection. In deposit at Mamac, Nice

Pirodactyl over New York 1962
Paint, plaster, wood and various objects (in two parts)     
2500 x 3100 x 300 mm
Artist’s collection. in deposit at Mamac, Nice

King Kong 1963
Paint, plaster and various objects on board
2760 x 6110 x 484 mm
Collection Moderna Museet, Stockholm