La Machine à rêver painted fibreglass 280 x 346 x 120 cm. (110 1/4 x 136 1/4 x 47 1/4 in.) Executed in 1970
Provenance: Alexander Iolas, Athens.
Exhibited: Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Rétrospective 1954-80, 1980, travelling to Berlin, Haus am Waldsee, 1980, p. 1 and p. 69, illustrated in the catalogue. Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Rétrospective 1954-80, 1981, pp. 68-69, illustrated in the catalogue. Angers, Museé des Beaux-arts d'Angers, Niki de Saint Phalle, des assemblages aux uvres monumentales, 23 June-15 September 2004, p. 80, illustrated in colour in the catalogue. Barcelona, Fondacion Joan Miró, Woman. Metamorphosis of Modernity, 26 November 2004 - 6 February 2005.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Niki de Saint Phalle: L'invitation au Musée, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1993, pp. 90-91, illustrated
In 1965, the generous shapes, high colours and naïve forms of Niki de Saint Phalles Nanas series presented at the Galerie Iolas in Paris offered a most appealing formula of the French Nouveau Realisme. The sculptures spurred a lifetime production of variations on the theme, and Saint Phalles Nanas have become one of the quintessential hallmarks of twentieth century art. With the artists French aristocratic origins and American upper-class upbringing, these visual odes to a triumphant femininity have been interpreted as the rebellious creations of a young soul in social captivity. Whatever the personal and multi-layered contradictions of their initial creation, Saint Phalles sculptures endorse with colourful distorsions the confident transgressions of a collective Feminism. From the fecund figurines of the Paleolithic goddesses, to the proportioned marbles of the Medici-Venus types (pudicae), to Saint Phalles curvaceous Nanas, the gender is liberated and the circle is complete.
The present sculpture associates the character of Saint Phalles Nana figure with the fractured composition of a riding/cycling vehicle. The blind body enjoys the simulated mechanisms of a dream-cycle as she is pulled on the back of a wheeled machine. The monumental size of the sculpture - 280 x 346 x 120cm - tends to ground the ethereal image contained in the soporific title. With La machine a rever, Niki de Saint Phalle departs from the single-figure Nana and begins to explore the greater and bolder dimensions of the oversize goddess set in oversized furnishings; the sculpture marks a step in the artists creative process leading to the concept of the femme-cathedrale, which culminated with the 27metre-long reclining figure of Hon/Elle, executed the following year, in 1966.