These were Niki de Saint Phalle’s words when, on 19 November 2000, she presented the city of Hanover with more than 400 of her works of art for the Sprengel Museum Hannover’s permanent collection. This group of works includes early assemblage pieces, her “Schießbilder” (shot-at pictures), sculptures and drawings, representing all of the artist’s different phases well into the 1980s. These were then on view at the Sprengel Museum Hannover in a comprehensive exhibition entitled “La Fête: Niki de Saint Phalle’s Donation“ in early 2001.
Niki de Saint Phalle had one of her first large exhibitions in 1969 at the Kunstverein Hannover. Four years later, she installed her monumental `Nana“ sculptures on the banks of the River Leine in Hanover’s central district. These works of art caused considerable controversy in the city which Niki de Saint Phalle, from then on, referred to as “the battle“. On the other hand, this also made her work extremely popular. It led to a large retrospective of her work at the Sprengel Museum Hannover in 1981. When, in 1999, the city government decided that three grottos in the just-restored Herrenhäuser baroque gardens ought to be graced with public art, Niki de Saint Phalle was the obvious choice.
Both the city at large and the Sprengel Museum Hannover are immensely grateful that she decided to donate her work. It is no exaggeration to say that Niki de Saint Phalle was, indeed, one of the most significant female artists of the 20th century. She not only expanded the canon of forms and means of expression in art during the decades following WW II, she was also, in the most positive meaning of the word, popular like no other 20th century artist, with the exception of Picasso. A few years after this self-taught artist began to examine the works of artists, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Jean Dubuffet - her drawing and painting influenced by her predecessors - she became part of the “Nouveaux Réalistes“ artists’ group. Her mixing of private iconography with radical political statements fit the mood of that era. Her “Schießbilder” and happenings in which she appeared as a “vestal virgin dressed in white“ (shooting down, all the while, female nightmares and male rationality) caused her to attract significant public attention. Niki de Saint Phalle then started to realise her Nana figures in the mid-1960s, anticipating the burgeoning feminist movement. The impression these sculptures made by the accessible compositions in combination with clearly articulated ideas made her work popular beyond feminist circles, establishing her as an artist whose notions of how to live and make art manifested themselves not only in the form of her Golem house, but also in her architectural projects and films and, towards the end of her life, in her Tarot Garden near Grosseto.