The Lehmbruck Museum is named after one of Germany’s great modernist sculptors, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, and was built by his son Manfred after the Second World War. It is a museum dedicated to sculpture and houses a collection of works both modern and contemporary in which all the big names are represented, from Hans Arp and Constantin Brâncuși to Erwin Wurm and Ossip Zadkine. The Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize has been awarded eleven times since its inception in 1966 and the recipients have all been artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the development of sculpture: Eduardo Chillida, Norbert Kricke, Claes Oldenburg, Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra, Richard Long, Nam June Paik, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Rebecca Horn and, most recently, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Also to be numbered among them is Jean Tinguely, who in 1976 became the third artist to be awarded the prize. The Lehmbruck Museum website has this to say about him:

‘In 1976 in the person of Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) the prize went to an artist who featured the element of movement in his works. Put together using iron parts, scrap and other materials, the constructions are for the most part cheery, tongue-in-cheek machines which, clanking with various degrees of loudness, enthrall their observers. They stand in contrast to all materials and principles otherwise used in sculpture and are as subversive as they are entertaining. Tinguely’s works represent a unique contribution to art. The Lehmbruck Museum showcases Das Kleine Männchen (1981) and Märchenrelief (1978) in its permanent exhibition.’

935x600_8_MT_A930_Sammlungspraesentation_Photo Daniel Spehr

Plateau agriculturel, 1978, Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Micheline and Claude Renard © 2021, Museum Tinguely; photo: Daniel Spehr

Every prize-winner is offered a solo show at the museum and Tinguely claimed his in 1978, when an exhilarating array of his works ended – chronologically speaking – with two that were especially worthy of note: one, called Bettler (Beggar), was a sculpture positioned at the exit that solicited donations to the museum from visitors – as it still does today, only at the Kunstmuseum Solothurn in Switzerland – while the other was Tinguely’s Märchenrelief (Fairy-Tale Relief), a machine sculpture that exemplifies the narrative quality of his art and demonstrates his deep affinity with children, whom he frequently acknowledged to be his most important audience.
A competition that invited children to write a story about the Märchenrelief was launched as a tie-in with the exhibition. It was won by ten-year-old Dietmar Franzen, whose story of ‘The Animal-Loving Frau Meier’ featured several elements from Tinguely’s work, including ‘the always tip-top automobile’, ‘the proud eagle’, ‘the poor frog king’, ‘a pretty silly duck’, ‘a lion that was kaput’ and a ‘racing garden gnome’. At Tinguely’s suggestion, the story, written in Franzen’s own hand, was reproduced as a fold-out leaflet illustrated with photos by Leonardo Bezzola – an action that undoubtedly made both the artist and his work even more popular in Duisburg.

Image credits: Jean Tinguely with Siegfried Salzmann at the opening of the exhibition Jean Tinguely: Meta-Maschinen at the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum. Visitors are distributed around the room between the works Spirale IV (1969), Méta-Harmonie I (1978), Hannibal II (1967) and Plateau agriculture (1978), Duisburg, 17 December 1978.
© Estate of Leonardo Bezzola