At a time when many central London galleries – particularly in Cork Street – are closing it is exciting to find a new venture in the heart of traditional Mayfair. Omer Tiroche Contemporary Art opened just over a year ago in February 2015, but already seems a well-established presence on Conduit Street. The focus is on American and European post-war and contemporary art – and a high standard has been set from the start with artists of the calibre of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Alexander Calder and Victor Vasarely featuring.
The current exhibition shines the spotlight on the colourful, bizarre and eclectic creations of Niki de Saint Phalle. Associated in the 1960s with Nouveau Réalisme alongside Arman, Christo, Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely and inspired by the designs of Gaudi, Saint Phalle is remarkable for her multi-media approach, from large-scale painted sculptures to enamelled jewellery. She may therefore appear an audacious subject, but the gallery offers a joyful and refreshing approach to her career. The title of the exhibition is taken from a painted wooden sculpture of a cow with mirrored elements; elsewhere are monkeys, snakes and birds all vibrantly coloured, alongside primitive totem-like Odalisques. There is an ingenuous playfulness that belies the turbulent life of the artist, and masks the diversity of cultural references implicit in the forms.
Helen Pheby of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park has curated the show, a relationship that stems from the loan of the gallery’s largest work, ‘Buddha’, to the YSP. An image of this imposing mosaic-clad figure forms a backdrop to the smaller pieces on show in the gallery, and hints at the importance of nature to Saint Phalle’s work. This is also clear in the designs for the Noah’s Ark project sculptures at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo – an early influence on Tiroche – some exhibited publicly for the first time. The vivid colours and voluptuous forms made for a perfect antidote to a rainy London morning.
By Kitty Hudson
Niki de Saint Phalle, 28 June – 12 September, opening reception 27 June, at Omer Tiroche Contemporary Art, 21 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XP, Mon-Fri 10-6.