Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) who grew up in Basel and belonged to the Parisian avant-garde in the 1950s and 60s, stimulated and revolutionised the «static» art world with his kinetic works.
Using everyday materials such as steel wire, tinplate and paint, in the early Fifties Tinguely creates moveable abstract constructions that can be set in motion by turning crank handles driven by a cogwheel mechanism.

In Paris in 1954, the artist exhibits his first motor-driven reliefs that he will eventually call «Méta-mécaniques». Driven by rollers, drive belts and electric motors, geometric metal elements move at different speeds against a background of monochrome wooden panels to form ever changing, random compositions.

In 1955, in Paris, Tinguely uses waste materials to devise his first sound reliefs that generate abstract noises.

Then, in 1959, he begins work on his «Méta-Matics», motor-driven drawing machines that the user can operate to create automatically abstract works of art.
#1: JEAN TINGUELY, Relief Méta-mécanique sonore II, 1955, Museum Tinguely, Basel. #2: JEAN TINGUELY, Wundermaschine, Méta-Kandinsky I, 1956, Museum Tinguely Basel. Fotos Christian Baur

The 1950s

In 1960, Tinguely creates his sensational, self-destructing scrap metal work, Homage to New York, in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In the first half of the 60s, the artist works principally with scrap iron and «objets trouvés». Works created include the Ballet des pauvres (Ballet of the Poor) and the «Balubas» series, motorised scrap sculptures featuring colourful «chaotically» assembled components that shake backwards and forwards in wild, jerky movements accompanied by a great deal of noise.
During this period, the artist constructs a series of machine sculptures, whose aggressive and eccentric movements and sounds scare the onlookers, but also cause them to laugh.

With his «Chars» – cart-like sculptures that move backwards and forwards, from left to right, up and down – the artist produces works such as those to which Sisyphus was condemned, constantly repeating their aimless and purposeless activity.

An important turning point is reached in 1963. Tinguely now paints his sculptures a uniform black, thereby emphasising their formal, plastic-sculptural qualities. In addition, a more robust mode of construction and the use of ball bearings enable Tinguely to experiment with a combination of rocking, circling and rotating movements in his «Bascule»- and «Eos» sculptures.
Klamauk (1979) is a work with «multi-dimensional» properties: mounted on a tractor. Through it, Tinguely realises his idea of a mobile, noise-making, smoking and stinking machine sculpture.
#1: JEAN TINGUELY, Ballet des Pauvres, 1961, Museum Tinguely, Basel. #2: JEAN TINGUELY, Ecrevisse, 1962, Museum Tinguely, Basel. #3: JEAN TINGUELY, Klamauk, 1979, Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Niki de Saint Phalle. Fotos Christian Baur

The 1960s and 70s

With his colourful «Méta-Harmonies»– monumental «sound-mixing machines» – Tinguely takes the sound reliefs he had already developed in the 50s a step further.
Their formal and acoustic variety challenges the visitor to explore the mechanical inter-relationships by studying the machine
from all angles.

In the Grosse Méta Maxi-Maxi Utopia, completed in 1987, Tinguely realises his vision of building a walk-in, poetically utopian dream world, using the most diverse everyday materials. Alongside the cheerful world of the «Méta-Harmonies», transience – in other words
Death – becomes an important part of Tinguely’s oeuvre in the 80s.

Lola T. 180 belongs to the series of moveable altar-pieces on which Tinguely begins to work in 1981.

The most impressive of these is the Mengele-Totentanz, which is created in 1986 from the remains of a burnt down farmhouse. The figures in this work group epitomise the inevitability of death, both through their appearance and by the moans and screeches they produce.
#1: JEAN TINGUELY, Lola T. 180 - Mémorial pour Joakim B., 1988, Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Niki de Saint Phalle. #2: JEAN TINGUELY, Méta-Harmonie IV, Fatamorgana, 1985, Museum Tinguely, Basel. #3: JEAN TINGUELY, Der Rammbock, Mengele Totentanz, 1986, Museum Tinguely, Basel. Fotos Christian Baur

Late works