Niki de Saint Phalle Tarot Cards - Review by Arnell Ando

Being an avid fan of Niki de Saint Phalleís art for years, and having visited her magical Tarot garden in Tuscany, Italy, during one of Brian Williams' legendary Italy Tarot tours, I was elated to discover she has recently published a Tarot deck based on the 22 Major Arcana archetypes reflected in her impressive sculpture park. While visiting the Picasso museum in Antibes, France, I happened upon this charming little deck. A wee bit overpriced perhaps at 310 Francs (about $43.00 US), nonetheless, nothing would have deterred me from purchasing it, loyal and enthusiastic admirer of Nikiís work that I am. Upon opening the box, I discovered a small booklet handwritten in English, French and German, which describes each card in short, often whimsical paragraphs, and the 22 brightly colored corresponding cards.

The cards aptly depict an essence of each archetypal sculpture in Nikiís majestic garden, although, understandably, they lose some of their complexity and depth of perception in the translation to cardstock. For example,  the Justice sculpture in the garden is an impressive, bigger-than-life female form dressed severely in black and white while emitting this critical mindset. Ample breasts form the scales of Justice and this, combined with her round-ish figure, convey the potential towards compassion and nurturance despite the overall sternness of this powerful Goddess. Her skirt arches open in front, which one might imagine is the entrance to life itself.  However, it reveals a barred and padlocked doorway in which, conceivably, injustice exists within her. Injustice is depicted as a rusty machine, slowly creaking away and resonating like a death rattle. A bleached animal skull drives this monstrous and terrible machine. The corresponding card next to the sculpture also conveys this basic form albeit with less impact and in a less alarming style.

Another favorite sculpture of mine is the Empress. She is as big as a house-- in fact, Niki lived within her for a time while she was constructing other sections of the garden. Her exterior is (quasi-Picasso) sphinx-like, while her interior walls are lovingly covered with brightly reflecting glass chips and the furniture is somehow both haunting and inviting at the same time. While the Empress card (above) outlines this same form, it does not capture the overwhelming impact of the bountiful sculpture itself.

However if you ever chance to visit the Tarot garden, (which I would wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend, of course!) these cards will serve as visual cue cards to rekindle the spectacular impression the sculptures initially evoke. I also recommend this deck to collectors and followers of Nikiís amazing body of work over the last few decades.

The Major Arcana carry the expected titles on the cards, save for the Lovers, which is renamed The Choice, while card XVI is called the Tower of Babel. Justice is card VIII and Strength is card XI, as in most European decks.

Click here to see a few more of my favorite cards from this deck.

The card backs convey a black and white mosaic pattern.

The only place that I found Nikiís deck in my search for unusual decks in both Milan, Italy and Southern France (in March 2001) was at the Picasso Museum in Antibes, France. They will take credit card orders over the phone, although some basic French communication skills are most likely necessary. The cost should be around $43.00 US, plus shipping.

Musee Picasso
Chateau Grimaldi
06600 Antibes
Phone: 04-92-90-54-20

(If dialing from outside of France, dial the country code, Ď33í,  first and donít use the first Ď0í in the above mentioned phone number)

The deck can also be purchased from Yves Daniel for $43 plus $5 airmail shipping.

Niki de Saint Phalle Tarot Cards
Flammarion 4 Productions 2000

Art © 2000 Niki de Saint Phalle
Review © 2001 Arnell Ando
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes

Arnell Ando is the artist and author of Transformational Tarot and the Hero's Journey Tarot.  She also illustrated the Storyteller Tarot written by Diane Wilkes.  She is a Certified Tarot Grand Master who gives wonderfully inspiring workshops all over the country on creating your own tarot.  She has a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and is a certified Expressive Arts Therapist.