Material / technique: Crane girder, gun carriage, wooden wheels, scrap iron, Swiss flag, light bulbs, electric motor
Size: c. 700 x 800 x 1700 cm
Catalog: Bischofberger 1020
Creditline: Museum Tinguely, Basel, Schenkung UBS
The “Luminator” was created in 1991 as a lamp sculpture for the trade fair hall where gallerist Klaus Littmann presented his Kulturgüterwagen (Cultural Goods Train) or Kunstzug (Art Parade) at ART Basel. For the Art Parade 6 artists — Jean Tinguely, Bernhard Luginbühl, Ben Vautier, Daniel Spoerri, Eva Aeppli and Milena Palakarkina — transformed freight cars into Cultural Goods Wagons with their artworks.
Jean Tinguely made the “Luminator” as a lamp to light up the dark trade fair hall. The sculpture came together quickly. With its outstretched arms, reminiscent of an insect or a beetle, its colourful wheels and its profusion of small lights (635 in all), “Luminator” marked a new beginning in Tinguely’s oeuvre.
On 30 August 1991 Jean Tinguely died at the age of 66. Even before his death, the suggestion had already been made to set up the “Luminator“ at the railway station. The Swiss Bank Corporation (today UBS) purchased the piece and made it available to the station, where it was installed in the ticket hall from 1991 to 1998. Rail passengers and art fans came to appreciate the piece as an “introduction“ to the culture and museum city of Basel. The whimsical, contemplative character of the work in particular was always regarded as a welcome counterweight to the hectic pace of the train station.
When work began on renovating the station in 1999, the piece had to be dismantled. After an interim engagement at the Leipzig station, where the “Luminator“ was installed until the end of 2000, it came to Museum Tinguely in 2003. In 2005 UBS donated Tinguely’s last major work to the museum.