Jean Tinguely was on the billing at not just one, but two museums in Krefeld in 1960: at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, whose show Multiplizierte Kunstwerke, die sich bewegen lassen included a presentation of the ‘Edition MAT’, and at Haus Lange, which that autumn staged his first solo show in a museum.

The ‘Edition MAT – Multiples d’Art Transformables’ was a 1959 initiative of Daniel Spoerri, who was living in Paris at the time – to be more exact in the famous Chambre No 13 of the Hotel Carcassonne on rue Mouffetard (which he would later reconstruct more than once) – and having first visited the French capital in 1952 knew the local art scene well. The idea of ‘Edition MAT’ was to have various artists create affordable works of art and then offer them for sale. The artists taking part were Yacoov Agam, Josef Albers, Pol Bury, Marcel Duchamp, Heinz Mack, Dieter Roth, Jesùs Rafael Soto, Jean Tinguely and Victor Vasarely, who were asked to produce not reproductions in the conventional sense, but rather multiple originals, first and foremost of kinetic objects. The concept was deemed more important than the distinctive hand of the artist. Tinguely’s contribution to ‘Edition MAT’ was Constante indéterminée, a machine sculpture into which a range of objects could be clamped and made to rotate.

The exhibition at Haus Lange assembled an overview of Tinguely’s first six years of work as an artist. The museum is housed in an iconic building by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed both Haus Lange and the neighbouring Haus Ester for Krefeld’s textile manufacturers in 1927. Haus Lange has been used as a museum since 1955, Haus Ester since 1981. The architecture lends itself perfectly to the presentation of contemporary art, and both Alexander Calder and Yves Klein had exhibitions there, the one before Tinguely, the other after him. The museum has a tradition of staging exhibitions of young artists that it has upheld to this day. The Kunstmuseen Krefeld’s most influential director of the post-war period was Paul Wember, who held the post from 1947 to 1975. Wember was also the curator of Tinguely’s show at Haus Lange, the catalogue of which was very special: not only did it feature an original drawing of a Méta-Matic supplied by Tinguely himself, but it came with a supplement containing detailed instructions on how to build the Maschinenbild Haus Lange relief.

Once you have built the machine as specified here’, wrote Wember in the instructions, ‘please send a photo of it with the label enclosed here to the Museum Haus Lange. We will then procure Jean Tinguely’s signature for you to identify the work as an original.

Maschinenbild Haus Lange Multiple, 1960/2004 65 x 65 x 8 cm

Jean Tinguely, Maschinenbild Haus Lange, Multiple, 1960/2004 © 2021, Museum Tinguely; photo: Christian Baur

The Paris gallery owner Denise René and Krefeld gallery owner Hans Mayer shared a house in Krefeld in the late 1960s and there showed several group exhibitions in which Tinguely was involved. Even more notable, however, was their 1968 presentation of Requiem pour une feuille morte, which Tinguely created for the Swiss pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. This monumental, 11-metre-wide relief that now belongs to the Renault Collection is regarded as one of his greatest works.