Urgent Museum Notice

New York Avenue Sculpture Project: Niki de Saint Phalle

Three large figures are dancing along a street. The figures have no faces but womanly bodies. They are wearing colorful bikinis with hearts and flowers painted on them. The figures appear enormous compared to the cars standing nearby.
Apr 28, 2010, to Oct 30, 2011

NMWA’s new bold public art project exhibits sculptures by renowned modern and contemporary women artists in changing installations on New York Avenue, right at NMWA’s front door. The first phase of the New York Avenue Sculpture Project features four monumental sculptures by French-born artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002).

Saint Phalle’s exuberant Nana on a Dolphin, 1998, and L’Arbre serpents (Serpent Tree), #23 Basketball Player, and Les trois grâces (The Three Graces), all from 1999, are exhibited on the avenue’s median between 12th and 13th Streets, NW. Subsequent phases of the project place sculptures along New York Avenue from 13th to 9th Street at Mount Vernon Square. When completed around 2015, the New York Avenue Sculpture Project will be the only major outdoor sculpture corridor in Washington, D.C.

In her lifetime, Saint Phalle created scores of outdoor sculptures and public art projects around the world. She is perhaps best known for her kinetic Stravinsky Fountain (created with Tinguely in 1982) in front of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and her grand Tarot Garden, 1978–98, in rural Garavicchio, Italy. Saint Phalle relished the contrast between the bright colors and shimmering surfaces of the monumental sculptures in her garden and the rugged Italian hillside into which she built them. The inaugural installation for the New York Avenue Sculpture Project continues Saint Phalle’s custom of presenting awe-inspiring art in public spaces.

NMWA has been planning this groundbreaking project for several years. An innovative public-private partnership between NMWA, the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, and the District of Columbia Office of Planning has enabled it to be realized. Temporary sculpture installations that will change every one to three years will create an exciting destination point in the capital city. Art by women will extend beyond NMWA’s galleries and into the area surrounding the museum, a vibrant and growing arts and entertainment district.

Two large figures, one black and one in silver, are playing basketball next to a street. The figure with the black skin is jumping up with the basketball, leaning their hand onto the head of the figure in silver. The figure jumping is wearing a colorful outfit made from a reflecting material.

Installation view of New York Avenue Sculpture Project: Niki de Saint Phalle; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Exhibition Sponsors

The New York Avenue Sculpture Project is currently funded through support from NAB member Medda Gudelsky, the Downtown DC BID, an anonymous donor, the Philip L. Graham Fund, the Homer and Martha Gudelsky Family Foundation, the Members of NMWA, and others. The District Department of Transportation is also funding the project through its Transportation Enhancement Program. The Enhancement Program provides grant funding for non-traditional projects that are linked to the District’s transportation system.