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Jean Tinguely


Relief méta-mécanique

Material / technique: black wooden box with seven rectangular, white-painted metal elements/ interior: wooden wheels, rubber belts, metal rods and electric motor
Size: 61 x 50 x 20 cm
Inv.Number: 11102
Catalog: Bischofberger 0005
Creditline: Museum Tinguely, Basel

In 1954 Tinguely created a group of works for exhibitions in Paris and Milan that are today subsumed under the heading “Méta-Malevitch”. These are reliefs made of square or rectangular wooden boxes in front of which metal elements in basic geometric shapes such as line and circle in pure white (or in a few cases glowing red) seem to float. These floating forms are mounted on fine wires that are connected behind the “picture surface” with wooden or metal wheels of various sizes. When these wheels are set in motion by drive belts connecting them with a likewise hidden motor, a continual series of new constellations appear on the “picture surface“. Tinguely further enhances the effect thus created by ensuring that the pivot point is not in the middle for all lines and that the wheels have different diameters, making the elements rotate at various speeds. This furthermore prevents simple symmetrical constellations from being produced after a certain amount of time, or, as Tinguely once gushed to a viewer of his works: “It would take at least 10,000 years for this extraordinary new machine to repeat before our eyes the same composition.” Jean Tinguely Sketch of the functions and movements of the Méta-Malevich ca. 1954 black ink on paper 13,6 x 21 cm 4142 Museum Tinguely, Basel The Méta-Malevich reliefs, a series of over 20 works, were executed in 1954 and 1955. Tinguely viewed them as his homage to Kasimir Malevich, the Russian Constructivist, whose static compositions he set into motion in his reliefs so that continually new constellations are created. Accident plays a major role in the details here, because the elements rotate at different speeds and thus yield an ongoing series of new compositions. Each image is new and virtually unrepeatable. Jean Tinguely Skizze von Funktionen and Bewegungen der Méta-Malevitch ca. 1954 Schwarze Tinte auf Papier 13,5 x 21 cm 4143 Museum Tinguely, Basel The young art historian Pontus Hulten, a close friend of Tinguely’s from 1954, suggested the generic term “Méta-mécaniques“ for Tinguely’s constructions, as the broad spectrum of meanings that can be read into the Greek prefix ”méta“ – which can signify “together with“, “after” or even “beyond” – seemed suitable for indicating the mutability of the works. Tinguely enthusiastically took up this suggestion and from then on named his work groups after the artist from whom he had derived formal inspiration, tacking on “meta” in front: “Méta-Kandinsky“, “Méta-Herbin“, “Méta-Mortensen” or “Méta-Malevich”.

Pictures in our Collection

The following applies for uses of pictures in relation to our collection:
Museum Tinguely does not own any copyright in works by Jean Tinguely or other artists in the collection. The clarification of these rights and payment in respect of them is a matter for the applicant. In Switzerland, the collecting society responsible for this is ProLitteris, Zurich (link website: Museum Tinguely undertakes no liability for third party claims arising from infringement of copyright and personality rights.

Collection of Museum Tinguely

Works and work groups belonging to all phases of Jean Tinguely’s career are to be found in the museum's collection. Along with selected temporary loans, they afford the visitor an extensive view of the artist’s career. Apart from sculptures, the collection furthermore comprises a large number of drawings and letter-drawings, documents, exhibition posters, catalogues and documentation such as photographs. In the measure of the possible all the exhibits are accessible to the public and regularly shown, be it in the permanent collection or as loans to exhibitions worldwide.

The museum’s collections are the result of a generous donation by the artist’s widow, Niki de Saint Phalle, made on the occasion of its foundation, a donation of works from the Roche collection, as well as several other gifts and acquisitions.

>> Biography of Jean Tinguely

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