Kunsthalle Mannheim has been home to Tinguely’s machine sculpture Hong-Kong (1963) since 1997. This work on permanent loan from the society of friends, along with the museum’s focus on sculpture, prompted its director Manfred Fath and his staff to stage an exhibition called Jean Tinguely, Stillstand gibt es nicht, which opened in October 2002. It was only the second retrospective to be held since the artist’s death in 1991 – apart from those at the Museum Tinguely that opened in 1996, of course.

The catalogue of the same name contained Fath’s fitting tribute to Tinguely the man and artist:

‘No one who met Tinguely in person could fail to be drawn in by the fascination of his highly exceptional personality’, he wrote. ‘He was bursting with intellectual and physical vigour and was good at infecting others with this, too, as is evident from the many projects that he initiated and saw through to completion in collaboration with his artist friends. Pontus Hultén, one of the best connoisseurs of Tinguely’s work and one of his closest friends, described him as “brilliant”. I myself met Tinguely on several occasions, the first time in 1969, and every time was fascinated by how on the ball, how intelligent and how charming he was, by his humor, his spontaneity and his gift of the gab. Most of the time he was very amiable, though he could also fly into a rage and roar with anger. Many of Tinguely’s actions were very spontaneous. He was a restless, attentive spirit and seemed to be driven by some inner unrest that kept him constantly on the move. He was always brimming with ideas and projects and with his talent for organization he succeeded in creating even the most monumental works. Most of these he planned very carefully, though the result was often quite different from what was intended. No one could imagine Tinguely completely relaxed. As his friend of many years, Bernhard Luginbühl, once said: “This haste and this character, one moment like this, next moment like that, never pausing, constantly on the go – and then whenever things got convivial, off he went.”

‘Not only did [Tinguely] have a deep personal relationship with Niki de Saint Phalle for many years, but the collaboration of these two inspired artists also gave rise to many major works. “Our relationship was always confrontational, we were a team in which the one stimulated the other.” The first joint project with Niki de Saint Phalle – as well as the Swedish artist Per Olof Ultvedt – was Hon, a 24-metre-long, reclining, multi-coloured Nana, which at Hultén’s initiative was installed in the foyer of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1966. Tinguely was the chief engineer of the project. Having also been commissioned to design a roof-top garden for the French pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle created a work called Le Paradis fantastique (now in Stockholm), an ensemble in which Niki de Saint Phalle’s colourful polyester figures combine with Tinguely’s machines to produce a “dynamic-colourful fairy-tale world”. The works of both artists are diametrical opposites. It is almost as if Tinguely’s machines were actually attacking the Nanas. In 1983, at the suggestion of Pierre Boulez, Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle designed a fountain to be installed next to the Centre Pompidou. This homage to Igor Stravinsky is a wonderful symbiosis of Tinguely’s black steel sculptures and the brightly coloured figures of Niki de Saint Phalle. The collaboration between Niki and Jean was not confined to their joint projects, however. Even after their separation, Tinguely continued to help Niki with the realization of large-scale projects like the Golem in Jerusalem or her Tarot-Garten.

‘Bernhard Luginbühl was also a close personal friend of Tinguely for many years. Their collaboration produced a whole series of remarkable works. Others, including Tiluzi and Gigantoleum – a “culture station” for Bern that Tinguely had long been dreaming of – were never actually realized. One important work created by Tinguely in 1977 in collaboration with Niki de Saint Phalle, Luginbühl and Spoerri was the Crocrodrome for the Centre Pompidou, a 46-metre-long fun house made of scrap metal that like many of Tinguely’s creations was destroyed once the exhibition was over. The largest joint project in which Luginbühl played a crucial role was also Tinguely’s most ambitious undertaking: the Kopf that he and his friends built in the woods at Milly-la-Fôret in 1970–1991. For Tinguely it was a long-cherished dream come true: a gigantic sculpture as high as the surrounding treetops and topped by a railway wagon.

‘Tinguely constantly broadened and breathed new life into his artistic repertoire his whole life long. Endowed with great charisma and driven by his own inner unrest, he was always bursting with ideas. Between the mid-1950s and his death in 1991 he created a body of work that counts among the most important artistic contributions of the twentieth century.’