Jean Tinguely

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Jean Tinguely
Portrait of Jean Tinguely, 1961.jpg
Jean Tinguely, 1961
Born(1925-05-22)22 May 1925
Fribourg, Switzerland
Died30 August 1991(1991-08-30) (aged 66)
Bern, Switzerland
Known forPainting, Sculpture
PartnerMilena Palakarkina (1986–1991)

Jean Tinguely (22 May 1925 – 30 August 1991) was a Swiss sculptor best known for his kinetic art sculptural machines (known officially as Métamatics) that extended the Dada tradition into the later part of the 20th century.[1] Tinguely's art satirized automation and the technological overproduction of material goods.


Born in Fribourg, Tinguely grew up in Basel, and in 1941-1945 studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule.[2] He moved to France in 1952 with his first wife, Swiss artist Eva Aeppli,[3] to pursue a career in art. He belonged to the Parisian avantgarde in the mid-twentieth century and was one of the artists who signed the New Realist's manifesto (Nouveau réalisme) in 1960.[4]

Jean Tinguely portrait by Lothar Wolleh, 1968
The Tinguely Fountain in front of the Tinguely Museum in Basel
Tinguely's Heureka in Zürich-Seefeld (Zürichhorn)

His best-known work, a self-destroying sculpture titled Homage to New York (1960), only partially self-destructed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City,[5][6][7] although his later work, Study for an End of the World No. 2 (1962), detonated successfully in front of an audience gathered in the desert outside Las Vegas.[8]

Tinguely married fellow Swiss artist Eva Aeppli in 1951. In 1971 he married his second wife, Niki de Saint Phalle, with whom he collaborated on several artistic projects, such as the Hon – en katedral[9] or Le Cyclop.[10]

Tinguely died of heart failure in 1991 at the age of 66, in the Inselspital in Bern.

Public works[edit]

Hon – en katedral[edit]

Hon – en katedral (Swedish: "She, a Cathedral") was an art installation made in collaboration with Niki de Saint-Phalle, that was shown at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1966. The exhibition consisted of a sculpture of a colorful pregnant woman lying on her back with her legs wide apart. The sculpture was 25–26 meters long, about 6 meters high and 11 metres wide. It was built of scaffolding and chicken wire covered with fabric and fiberglass, painted with brightly coloured poster paint. Through a door-sized entry in the location of the woman's vagina, visitors could go into the sculpture. Inside was a screen showing Greta Garbo films, a goldfish pond, and a soft drink vending machine. Johann Sebastian Bach's organ music played through speakers. The exhibition was created by Niki de Saint-Phalle, Tinguely and Per Olov Ultvedt. It had 80,000 visitors during the exhibition period from 4 June to 9 September 1966.

Noise music recordings[edit]

  • 1963 'Sounds of Sculpture', 7, Minami Gallery, Tokyo, Japan_[Tinguely's sculptures recorded by avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi during Japanese exhibition]
  • 1972 'Méta', book+7_, Propyläen Verlag, Stockholm
  • 1983 'Sculptures at The Tate Gallery, 1982'_, Audio Arts cassette
  • 1983 'Meta-Harmonie H' incl. in ‘Meridians 2_ compmqenan ate a pie
  • 2001 'Relief Meta-Mechanique Sonore I' incl. in 'A Diagnosis' compilation, Revolver-Archiv für Aktuelle Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Influence on others[edit]

  • In Arthur Penn's Mickey One (1965) the mime-like Artist (Kamatari Fujiwara) with his self-destructive machine is reminiscent of Tinguely[11]
  • Survival Research Laboratories, directed by Mark Pauline (USA)
  • Prominent kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson described Tinguely as his "primary spiritual artistic mentor", and paid homage to him in his work "Tinguely in Moscow".[12]

Gallery of Works[edit]

See also

Further reading[edit]

  • Museum Tinguely in Basel
  • Chapter on Tinguely in Calvin Tomkins' The Bride and Her Bachelors.
  • K.G. Pontus Hultén: Jean Tinguely 'Méta'. London: Thames & Hudson, 1975 (original German version Frankfurt/M.: Ullstein, 1972)
  • G. Bischofsberger: Catalogue raisonné, 3 Vols. Basel, 1982.
  • Margit Hahnloser-Ingold: Pandämonium – Jean Tinguely. Bern: Benteli, 1988 (rather hagiographic, but with interesting personal memories and background material)
  • Heidi E. Violand: Jean Tinguely's Kinetic Art or A Myth of the Machine Age. Diss, New York University, 1990
  • Museum Jean Tinguely (eds.): Die Sammlung. (The collection) Bern: Benteli, 1996 (incl. an interesting biographical report by Margit Hahnloser: "Jean Tinguely und die Schweiz")
  • Museum Jean Tinguely (eds.): Jean le Jeune. Basel: Benteli, 2002 (incl. a biographical text by Jocelyn Daignes about Tinguely's early love of materials and machines, his pacifism, and his Catholicism, p. 23-65).


  1. ^ Ian Chilvers and John Glaves-Smith (eds), A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, Oxford University Press, p.709
  2. ^ "Jean Tinguely". Retrieved 7 August 2022.
  3. ^ Leu, Aia. The Art of the Leu Family, SeedPress, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9551109-2-4. (p. 13).
  4. ^ Ian Chilvers and John Glaves-Smith (eds), A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, Oxford University Press, p.709
  5. ^ "The Garden Party", report about Homage to New York (1960) by Billy Klüver, reprinted in: Pontus Hilton (ed.): The Machine as seen at the End of the Mechanical Age exhibition catalogue published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968, p. 168-171.
  6. ^ "Jean Tinguely, Homage to New York, 1960". 23 May 2017.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Sartorially Inclined: Study for an End of the World No. 2". 18 August 2010.
  9. ^ "50 years since HON". 3 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Le Cyclop".
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley (September 9, 1965). "Film Festival: Heels, Old and New:1954 Movie Makes One Feel for Hero". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  12. ^ "Tinguely in Moscow - Arthur Ganson". Arthur Ganson. Retrieved 21 February 2018.

External links[edit]