Begins search for land on which to build a sculpture garden in San Diego County. In October 2000, the City of Escondido accepts offer to create a garden in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Kit Carson Park. Starts design work and plans for Queen Califia’s Magical Circle. She draws much of its imagery from her interpret- ations of early California history, myth, legend, Native American and Meso-American culture and the study of indigenous plant and wildlife. Awarded the 12th Praemium Imperial Prize (Sculpture Category) sponsored by the Japan Art Association and considered to be the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the art world. Among the other prize winners in 2000 are American composer Stephen Sondheim, painter Ellsworth Kelly, the German composer Hans Werner Henze and the British architect Richard Rogers. In November 2000, the Sprengel Museum in Hannover unveils a portion of the more than 300 works donated by the artist and publishes a major catalogue about the gift.
Accepts commission to redesign and ornament three rooms in the historic 17th century Grotto built in Hannover’s Royal Herrenhausen Garden. Originally decorated with shells, crystals and minerals removed in the 18th century, the building was used as a store for many years. Donates major gifts of work to the City of Nice for its Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain and to the Musée d'Art Décoratifs in Paris
Niki de Saint Phalle dies on May 21 at the age of 71 in La Jolla, California. Granddaughter Bloum Cardenas, assistant/collaborator Marcello Zitelli, technical advisor Lech Juretko as well as other members of her international staff oversee final work on Escondido and Hannover projects to ensure they meet her specifications. The exhibition, From Niki Matthews to Niki De Saint Phalle, opens at The Sprengel Museum.
The Grotto opens in March with mosaic decorations of glass, mirrors and pebbles as well as a host of painted and sculpted figures. Summer exhibition of monumental sculptures in Palais- Royal Gardens in Paris as well as shows in Hungary, Denmark, Poland and Germany. The Niki Charitable Art Foundation, a non-profit organization, is established. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Kit Carson Park, Escondido, California is dedicated and opens to the public in October. This is her first American garden and the last major project realized by the artist.