The Grotto

The Artist: Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle left marks all over Hannover: she designed not only the Grotto in Herrenhausen, but also the Nanas beside the River Leine.

A lady in a yellowish dress signs a book, next to her a bald-headed man watching over her shoulder; many more people in the background © LHH

Accompanied by former mayor Herbert Schmalstieg, Niki de Saint Phalle signed the visitor's book of Hannover in 2000

Creator of the world-famous Nanas, Niki de Saint Phalle, was born 29 of October 1930 in Paris as Catherine Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle, died 21 of May 2002 in San Diego. She always has been a friend of the town on the River Leine. Her affection was expressed in one simple sentence in the autumn of 2000: "I have a very special feeling for Hannover."

Art projects all over the world

Her artistic breakthrough came in the 1950s with exhibitions by the international 'Nouveaux Réalistes' movement, and in the following decades her work provoked widespread admiration and controversy: along with the films 'Daddy' and 'Camélia et le Dragon' there were exhibitions in all the world's leading museums and many extraordinary art projects, such as the giant reclining Nana, 'Hon - en katedral' for the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (1966), 'Paradies Fantastique' built in collaboration with Jean Tinguely, her partner of many years. For the French pavilion at the Montréal World Exposition in 1967 she created the 'Golem' monster house with tongue slides in Jerusalem (1972) and the 'Giardino dei Tarocchi' in Tuscany, which grew from an idea in 1974 and was finally opened to the public in 1998.

The Nanas in Hannover

The appearance of three brightly-coloured, amply-proportioned polyester Nanas beside the River Leine in 1974 raised a storm of protest from some Hanoverians and sparked off the city's first partisan and far-reaching debate about art in public urban spaces. Today the Nanas, who quickly became a symbol for the EXPO City, have found their place in the hearts of the citizens of Hannover. Niki de Saint Phalle began designing a new interior for the Grotto in Hannover's Großer Garten in 1999. She died a year before its completion, but the detailed plans and information that she left her assistants enabled them to turn her vision into reality. The Grotto in Herrenhausen is thus the last major artistic project to be completed by Niki de Saint Phalle.