The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

May 02, 2011

The Bechtler makes Niki de Saint Phalle available for everyone

Posted by carmella.jarvi

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art continues sharing art with the Charlotte community with free admission to Niki de Saint Phalle's breathtaking sculptures located on The Green, the outdoor area across from the Bechtler. As an added bonus, at some of these sculptures, there are free call-in numbers to hear more information.

Mark your calendars, because this Saturday, May 7 is Family Day at the Bechtler, which encourages kids to explore their artistic side outdoors. Admission is free for kids 18 years old and younger. Adults receive a discounted ticket price of $4.

The Bechtler’s exhibition, "Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology" is on view March 18 through Oct. 3, 2011 and includes a variety of her work spanning the decades, from whimsical etchings to her powerful, and sometimes disconcerting, sculptures. "Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology" is a kaleidoscopic journey where things don’t always appear as they seem.

Like the "L'oiseau de feu sur l'arche (The Firebird)" sculpture out front, her large, high-contrast creations steal the show. "La Cabeza ou Tête de Mort (Grande)," or the skull, out on The Green is a work that literally draws you in. The materials she combines with shiny mirrors create a treat for the senses. Be sure to walk around her sculptures, because different views produce a variety of feelings. Also, make sure to sit inside of "La Cabeza" to perhaps feel a deeper connection with de Saint Phalle. Note "The Empress," also filled with a mirrored interior, was her home as part of a major project called the "Tarot Garden" in Tuscany. There is a small maquette of this sphinx home in the exhibit.

Like de Saint Phalle's artwork, the historic relationships of the Bechtler’s artists are equally fascinating. Artist de Saint Phalle was married to artist Jean Tinguely, and the couple was close friends with architect Mario Botta. The distinctive Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is one of only two buildings in the United States designed by the eminent Swiss architect Botta. The fact that the Bechtlers were friends with de Saint Phalle and Tinguely influenced Botta’s involvement in this project.

Off the elevator of the fourth floor of the Bechtler, you will see "L’execution," a kinetic sculpture by Tinguely created with pieces from Andreas Bechtler’s attic. While viewing, make sure you ask someone to turn on the Tinguely sculptures. Glance across the museum through the center atrium windows and you will see de Saint Phalle’s "Horus." These two face each other and, for a moment, one can imagine the collaborative energy between this husband and wife.

Charlotte is also home to Tinguely's kinetic sculpture "La Cascade," which is featured in the lobby of the Carillon Building, 227 W. Trade St., Charlotte, N.C. Created in 1991, "La Cascade" was the last large sculpture by Tinguely before his death later the same year. This sculpture is a powerful example of the artist's play with vision, sound and rhythm. It's on view during regular business hours for free.

Back at the Bechtler, de Saint Phalle’s work explores her personal mythology in such a way that almost anyone can enter it through the playfulness. Yet, there is something uneasy and dark below the surface. In a similar way, the Bechtlers have shared what seems to be an extraordinary art collection. But, look deeper and experience the intertwined life of artists and their patrons.

As you leave her exhibition on the fourth floor, the title, “Death doesn’t exist. Life is eternal” seems an appropriate statement to sum up the show.


"Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology" is on view March 18 through Oct. 3, 2011 at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts, 420 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, N.C. 28202. Visitor Services: 704.353.9200. Monday through Saturday, 
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. 
Closed Tuesdays. DIRECTIONS

Please note the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided funding to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art to increase the young museum’s reach by creating a digital library of the rarely seen, 1,400-piece collection.

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