6 June – 1 November 2015
Eva Aeppli, born on May 2, 1925 in Zofingen (Switzerland), grew up in Basel with her parents and three siblings. She attended the Steiner School in Basel, which had been co-founded by her father. During the 2nd World War she enrolled in courses at the School of Applied Arts and created her first fabric figures, glove puppets which she sold in various stores. She only commenced her actual artistic oeuvre – she considered the glove puppets her bread-and-butter work – once she was in Paris.
Aeppli met Yves Klein, François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, along with protagonists of the very lively Parisian art world such as the gallery owner Iris Clert, the critic Pierre Restany, or the young Swedish art historian Pontus Hultén. However, for the most part she kept her distance from the art scene, while her husband fully immersed himself in it. In 1955 she met Niki de Saint Phalle and the latter’s husband Harry Matthews; the two couples were subsequently bound by a close friendship.
In 1960 Aeppli separated from Tinguely, who lived in the ensuing years with Niki de Saint Phalle, and went on to marry American lawyer Samuel Mercer, with whom she lived part-time in Omaha/NE.
The mid-1960s saw the creation of the first textile sculptures, life-sized figures with impressive faces and long, thin hands. La Table of 1967 (now at Moderna Museet Stockholm) shows 13 figures, sitting at a table, an interpretation of the Last Supper, without a Savior, though. On a smaller scale and darker is the group of likewise 13 figures bearing the title Hommage à Amnesty International (now at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris), black-clad forms whose faces are petrified in silent suffering. Furthermore, Eva Aeppli created individual figures which, sitting on chairs, function as silent watchers of the world. An intensive confrontation with astrology, which began from 1975 in collaboration with astro-psychoanalyst Jacques Berthon and artist Eric Leraille, led to the creation of various groups of figures, the first of which was the Die zehn Planeten (The Ten Planets), which were shown in 1976 at the Biennale in Venice. After the Biennale the artist decided to have the heads of the Planets cast in bronze. She gifted the hands to friends; the figures’ bodies were destroyed.
A final group of works was created in 1990 and 1991: these are sculptures that she created jointly with Jean Tinguely, morbid figures such as the Hommage à Käthe Kollwitz (Kunstmuseum Solothurn) or Erika (private collection). These sculptures were on show at Basel’s Galerie Littmann and were central components of the subsequent retrospectives. Eva Aeppli collaborated with other artists, too, such as Jean-Pierre Raynaud or Daniel Spoerri.
Supported by a more recent – but no less close – friendship, the electronic directory of Eva Aeppli’s works is produced by art historian Susanne Gyger in collaboration with the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA). It has been published on the latter’s website since 2012 and is publicly accessible.