Jean Tinguely: La roue = c’est tout

Jean Tinguely: La roue = c’est tout

Museum Tinguely

Jean Tinguely looking for materials, Paris, 1960. Photo: unknown.

February 2, 2023
Jean Tinguely
La roue = c’est tout
New permanent exhibition
February 8, 2023–February 8, 2025
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Opening: February 7, 6:30pm
Curator’s tour: February 9, 7pm
Museum Tinguely
Paul Sacher-Anlage 1
4058 Basel
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–6pm,
Thursday 11am–9pm
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Museum Tinguely holds the world’s largest collection of works by Jean Tinguely with some 130 sculptures and around 2000 works on paper. Half of the museum space is always reserved for the permanent exhibition. In 2023, for the first time since the Museum’s founding in 1996, the show takes up again the whole of the main hall on the ground floor. Visitors are invited to explore the delicate poetry of Tinguely’s early work, the explosive performances and collaborations of the 1960s, and the dark, monumental musicality of his late period. One highlight of this new permanent exhibition is a recently purchased key work from the 1960s: Tinguely’s Éloge de la folie (1966). Prominently placed at the entrance to the museum, it underscores the importance of such interdisciplinary projects within Tinguely’s oeuvre.

With the addition of several key works on loan, this new exhibition offers a four-decade overview of Tinguely’s oeuvre. His statement “La roue = c’est tout” runs through the show as a leitmotif: as well as being a recurring theme throughout his career, the wheel also stands for his belief that changing times should find expression in art. The new permanent exhibition is structured chronologically and begins with the hugely innovative years 1954 through 1959 - supplemented by important loans such as Moulin à prière or Tricycle from 1954. The first section of the new exhibition highlights Tinguely’s inventiveness and innovativeness, showcasing the wire sculptures and reliefs from the 1950s that established his reputation as a pioneer of kinetic art.

The next room is devoted to the “performative sculptures” of the period 1960 through 1967, contrasting the scrap metal sculptures around 1960 with the black sculptures around 1965. The newly constructed mezzanine floor then deals with Tinguely’s passion for cars and his altar-like and carnivalesque sculptures.

Tinguely’s innovative approach to sketching and drawing is showcased in a selection of works on paper. The following rooms resemble a study department, presenting Tinguely’s major joint and performative projects of the 1960s and ’70s in public spaces, on the stage, and in museums. Video projection rooms offer visitors the opportunity to discover the projects Homage to New York (1960), Étude pour une fin du monde No.1 (1961), Study for an end of the world No. 2 (1962) and Éloge de la folie (1966) and many others on film.

Finally, the open space of the great hall features Tinguely’s later years with large-scale sculptures and music machines such as Méta-Harmonie II (1979), Fatamorgana (1985), as well as the walk-through sculpture Grosse-Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia (1987), the largest work Tinguely ever created for a museum. The works in this part of the exhibition have fixed, choreographed running times. The exhibition parcours also includes the central late work Mengele-Totentanz (1986) as well as the Schauatelier, the open workshop of the conservation and restoration team.

The multimedia biography offers insights into Tinguely’s life via photographs, videos, and sound recordings. Tinguely’s work is marked by a wide range of interests and themes: the relationship between humans and machines; movement and kinetics; chance as a congenial partner; innovation through creative destruction; life and death as two sides of the same coin; embodiment; theater and performance; musicality and appealing to all the senses; critique of consumerism; anarchy and political engagement; inter- and transdisciplinarity. Tinguely was a gifted networker with a large circle of friends who took great pleasure in the collaborative, experimental processes of making art and exhibitions across boundaries. His oeuvre is unique for the way it makes art accessible to all, an aspect that is central to our work at the museum.

A wall display at the entrance to the museum offers a new way in for families and visitors with kids. Appealing to multiple senses, it makes suggestions for an inspiring visit and gives insights into the museum’s art education programme.

The museum also offers “parcours trails for families” shortly that allow the artworks in the collection to be explored in playful ways designed to be thought-provoking for young and old.

Curator: Roland Wetzel
Curatorial assistant: Tabea Panizzi

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Museum Tinguely
February 2, 2023

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