Artist & Designer: Nicola L.

Wright celebrates the influential and innovative work of Nicola L. Her playful and heady blend of feminism, body politics, humor and a pop sensibility make her one of the leading figures to have emerged from the recent re-examinations of the Pop Art movement. Wright is proud to have brought to auction her iconic and provocative works of art and design.

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It is a vehicle for entering the human body into dialogue with architecture, clothing, and furniture, to direct attention to the superficial layers that compose all structures, including bodies: the shell can be understood as both architecture and skin.

Ruba Katrib, curator of Nicola L's 2017 retrospective at the Sculpture Center, New York

Iconic Works

For over five decades, Nicola L. created works at the intersection of performance, politics, the avant-garde, and functional design. While she was creating in the midst of the Pop Art movement and second-wave feminism and can be associated with both, Nicola L. had a distinct and singular voice that refused categorization and investigated more deeply the implications of these movements with equal parts irreverence and warmth.

My [work is] an ephemeral monument to freedom and freedom is not for sale.

Nicola L.

Total Habitation

The Multi-Disciplinary Work of Nicola L.

Not content with limiting herself to art, design, performance and politics, Nicola L. was also a filmmaker, fully inhabiting and capturing the many worlds in which she moved, whether that was music festivals, political rallies, downtown clubs or the Chelsea Hotel, where she kept a room for over thirty years. Nicola L.'s most well known works in this medium are a recording of the punk band Bad Brains at CBGB in 1980, a 1981 documentary about activist Abbie Hoffman, My Name is Abbie: Orphan of America and the 2011 documentary Doors Ajar at the Chelsea Hotel. She was also part of the milieu of musicians in the 1960s and 1970s, both in Europe and in downtown New York, staging performances for bands like Soft Machine, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso.

Auction Results Nicola L.

Le main-canapé (Hand Sofa), 1970. Photograph by Brigitte Muus, 1972.

Nicola L. 1937–2018

Nicola L.'s playful and heady blend of feminism, body politics, humor and a pop sensibility make her one of the leading figures to have emerged from the recent re-examinations of the Pop Art movement. Her iconic and provocative works blur the distinction between art and design, nudging viewers to change the way they inhabit space and use objects.

Nicola L. was born in Mazagan, Morocco in 1937 later moving to and growing up in Paris. As a young woman, she attended the Académie Julian before studying at the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris. While at the prestigious school, Nicola L. felt stifled by its traditional approach to art making and its aesthetic and philosophical conservatism. After graduating, she became associated with the Parisian Nouveau Réalisme group, which included Arman, Christo, Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely; the movement was seen as a European counterpart to the Pop Art movement. Critic and founder of the movement Pierre Restany described it as "a poetic recycling of urban, industrial and advertising reality," in that it rejected the lyricism of abstraction and the traditional nature of figuration and instead used reality as its medium to create performances, collages and assemblages that worked to deconstruct the special, singular nature of the art object.

These ideas had a monumental influence on the young artist.; In 1964, prompted by Restany's probe "How can anyone paint in the 1960s?" Nicola L. burned all of her paintings and began making the work she is most recognized for today. 

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Nicola L. created provocative, performative works that subverted the traditional boundaries of art and design and incorporated feminist and political concerns. In 1967, she was invited to New York for a performance and, enchanted by the lively and chaotic downtown art scene, she rented a room at the Chelsea Hotel, which she kept for the next thirty years, splitting her time between there and Paris. Nicola L.'s influential body of work is consistent in that it deals with the same driving themes, endlessly remixed and re-examined. Her commitment to a distinctive and singular vocabulary of motifs and ideas has made her work iconic and instantly recognizable. Serving as an engaging, humanistic counterpoint to her contemporaries who also made "conceptual furniture," Nicola L.'s works are pieces that inspire a life of their own and inhabit space with warmth and wit. 

Nicola L.'s work is held widely in collections including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Antwerpen Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Museum of Modern Art of Glasgow, among others. She was the subject of a 2017 retrospective, Nicola L Works 1968 to Present at the Sculpture Center, Queens, NY and was featured in the important show The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern, London in 2015, a re-examination of Pop Art that stressed the inclusion of more female and international artists in the considered history of the movement. Nicola L. continued to make work until her passing in 2018. 

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