"Nikigator" outside the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park
“Nikigator” outside the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. Courtesy photo

The Mingei International Museum and NTC Foundation are moving the iconic sculpture “Nikigator” to Liberty Station during renovation of the museum’s Balboa Park home.

Created by the late French-American artist, Niki de Saint Phalle, who spent her final years in La Jolla, the whimsical reptile is covered with mirrors, glass and polished stones.

On Aug. 6, the sculpture will arrive at Liberty Station on a flatbed truck from a storage facility in Santee. A crane will lower it into place in front of the Dick Laub NTC Command Center at 2640 Historic Decatur Road, outside the temporary Shop Mingei and Café Mingei opened during the renovation.

“Nikigator is now ready to be unleashed to the public. We’re thrilled that once again she can be a beacon for the museum and a fun destination for all families enjoying Liberty Station, until she can return to her native habitat in Balboa Park,” said Rob Sidner, executive director and CEO of the museum.

During the upcoming ArtWalk @ Liberty Station, the museum will present a collaborative mosaic project inspired by Saint Phalle’s whimsical designs. Families will create a colorful gator-shaped mosaic using gemstones, tiles and other recycled materials.

While in storage, Saint Phalle’s longtime assistant Lech Juretko repaired the sculpture, which had suffered from nearly 20 years of exposure to the elements. The adhesive attaching the mosaic elements had become compromised, making it easy for vandals to remove the marbles and stones. The museum said the repairs should reduce annual conservation costs for years to come.