Patron Saint of Hannover: Artist Niki de St. Phalle


When Niki de St. Phalle’s  sculptures Die Nanas were first installed by the Leine River in 1974, the city received nearly 20,000 letters of complaint. 20,000!

Stories like this make me laugh. Attitudes toward public art, or art in general, for that matter, can change so much over time.

Now some 30+ years later, Die Nanas are beloved Hannover landmarks. You can even buy mini- Nanas in giftshops here. De St. Phalle went on to create a grotto for Hannover’s Herrenhauser Gartens. There’s now even a shopping area named after her, and a bunch of her sketches and smaller artwork are housed in the local Sprengel Museum. I was excited to find her work here because just before we left the U.S., our hometown of Charlotte, NC acquired a Niki de St. Phalle sculpture of its own—The Firebird—blogged here.

The Nanas are so exuberant. They make me want to do a handstand by the river, too.

Here’s a peek inside de St. Phalle’s grotto at Herrenhauser:

Update on Slowpoke: the amazon listing, which was messed up for awhile, has been fixed. It even has the “look inside” feature now, which is kind of fun. Charlotte friends: you can find the book on the “staff recommends” shelf at Park Road Books. Thank you, folks at Park Road! The Barnes & Noble in Florence, SC should already have it on order or possibly on the shelf. And wherever you live, you can ask your local bookseller to order it for you!

Me at De St. Phalle’s grotto:

Cathedral of Junk

So I promised to tell you about the Austin landmark Malka didn’t know about. My friend Megan and I found out about it randomly through some people we met at a yummy airstream-trailer cafe (yes, these are plentiful in Austin). When I heard the words “Cathedral of Junk” I gasped. Just the kind of thing I was looking for! I could just hear my family laughing when I told them this was a highlight of my girls’ weekend away. What can I say? I like weird and crazy junk, and the cathedral is weird and crazy at its best. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

A Shiny New Firebird

No, I didn’t get a new car. Charlotte has a new mascot. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is opening on January 2, but right now I’m drooling over the outside of the museum, including the recently installed Firebird sculpture by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

I love the way the orange brick frames the sculpture. I just couldn’t help smiling when I stood next to it. And the light! The light bouncing off it creates these gorgeous constellations on the ground.


I am so totally stoked about this museum. Its big ol’ collection includes works by Giacometti, Miro, Picasso, Le Corbusier, Alexander Calder, Warhol, and on and on. I can barely wait for Jan. 2. For more info, click here.