Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Niki de Saint Phalle moved to New York City at an early age. As a self-taught artist, she first gained international recognition for her Tirs (or ‘Shots’) series which parodied Art Informel painting, and eventually became associated with Nouveau Réalisme.
In 1964, the artist turned her attention to traditional depictions of women in society. She created life-size models of female archetypes- including women giving birth or dressed in wedding dresses- from plaster, wire and plastic toys, painting them completely white or decorated with splashes of bright colour. These were entitled ‘Nanas’, a French slang word that roughly translates to ‘broad’. Saint Phalle is also celebrated for her work on AIDS awareness, and in 1986 published Aids, You Can’t Catch it Holding Hands, an amalgamation of written word and illustration.
Saint Phalle died of emphysema in California in 2002.