My So Charmed Life

Pompidou Centre Inside & Out, Featuring Niki de Saint Phalle



Let’s go back to Paris shall we? I know I’d like to. Our rented apartment for the week was situated right between the fabulous Marais District and the Beaubourg District, making the Pompidou Centre one of our key landmarks from which we’d get lost anyway. As you know, I absolutely love gigantic modern art institutions, favorites being the Hirshhorn, MOMAnyc and MOMAsf, and the Whitney. I’m now placing this amazing museum into my top 5.


Completed in 1977 to much controversy, the Pompidou Centre is sometimes referred to as “the inside-out building” because of the incredible exo-skeletal ducts and pipes that are boldly presented on the exterior. The size of the structure is beyond breathtaking. Suffice to say it looms large, posing an incredible modern contrast to Paris’ ancient buildings.


Even the long escalator hangs on the outside of the building; riding it to the top floor for a spectacular view of the city was our first order of business once entering (free the first Tuesday [correction: first Sunday] of the month… a bonus!). It was like a slow, strange carnival ride.


We spent a rainy half day all cozy inside. The view from the top floor includes the Eiffel Tower, that fuzzy structure to the left in the above photo.


David (“the BF” to you) and Molly in one of the escalator tunnels.


Must photograph cool typography when travelling.


An exhibit of women artists was on display that day.


Niki de Saint Phalle–a recent obsession/inspiration of mine–was included. This French-born, American-raised society girl was an artist and fashion model, at 16 gracing the cover of Vogue magazine.


Her work is also on view nearby in the wonderfully playful Stravinsky Fountain (above), alongside co-conspirateur and husband Jean Tinguely‘s kinetic sculpture.


But it is de Saint Phalle’s early shooting paintings that really interest me most. Niki was known to openly reject the staid, conservative values of her family, which dictated domestic positions for wives and particular rules of conduct. However, after marrying young and giving birth to two children, she found herself living the same bourgeois lifestyle that she had attempted to reject; the internal conflict causing her to suffer a nervous breakdown. As a form of therapy, she was urged to pursue her painting. The shooting paintings were created by filling polythene bags with paint and enclosing them within layers of plaster against a blockboard backing. Spectators–including Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns at one point–were invited to shoot at these constructions, releasing the paint. The moment of action and an emphasis on chance were as important as the finished work. De Saint Phalle stopped making these works in 1963, explaining ‘I had become addicted to shooting, like one becomes addicted to a drug‘.


The series of badges above, listing next week in the Debutantes section on So Charmed as well as in the Etsy shop, took close to 2 months to design and complete. Many many things were tried before I settled on the above materials and construction. Each image of de Saint Phalle–from tiara-sporting princess, to cover girl, to shooter, and finally looking eccetric and mature–is surrounded by lush velvet pleating. Shotgun bullet charms dangle from each pin.


Bang bang modern art, dears.

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