Jean Tinguely

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Jean Tinguely
Tinguely by Wolleh.jpg
Jean Tinguely portrait by Lothar Wolleh
Born (1925-05-22)22 May 1925
Fribourg, Switzerland
Died 30 August 1991(1991-08-30) (aged 66)
Bern, Switzerland
Nationality Swiss
Known for Painting, Sculpture
File:Basel Tinguely vor Museum.jpg
The Tinguely Fountain in front of the Tinguely Museum in Basel
Tinguely's Heureka in Zürich-Seefeld (Zürichhorn)

Jean Tinguely (22 May 1925 – 30 August 1991) was a Swiss painter and sculptor. He is best known for his sculptural machines or kinetic art, in the Dada tradition; known officially as metamechanics. Tinguely's art satirized the mindless overproduction of material goods in advanced industrial society.


Born in Fribourg, Tinguely grew up in Basel, but moved to France in 1952 with his first wife Swiss artist Eva Aeppli,[1] to pursue a career in art. He belonged to the Parisian avantgarde in the mid-twentieth century and was one of the artists who signed the New Realist's manifesto (Nouveau réalisme) in 1960.

His best-known work, a self-destroying sculpture titled Homage to New York (1960), only partially self-destructed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City,[2] although his later work, Study for an End of the World No. 2 (1962), detonated successfully in front of an audience gathered in the desert outside Las Vegas.

Tinguely married fellow Swiss artist Eva Aeppli in 1951. In 1971, Tinguely married his second wife, Niki de Saint Phalle.

Jean Tinguely died in 1991 at the age of 66 years in the Bern Hospital after a heart illness.

Public works


Hon-en-Katedrall (sometimes spelled "Hon-en-Katedral") was an art installation that was shown at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1966. The exhibition consisted of a sculpture of a colorful pregnant woman lying on her back with her legs wide apart. The sculpture was 25-26 meters long, about 6 meters high and 11 meters wide. It was built of scaffolding and chicken wire covered with fabric and fiberglass, painted with brightly-coloured poster paint. Through a door-sized entry in the location of the woman's vagina, visitors could go into the sculpture. Inside was a screen showing Greta Garbo films, a goldfish pond and a soft drink vending machine. Johann Sebastian Bach's organ music played through speakers. The exhibition was created by Niki de Saint-Phalle, Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt. It had 80,000 visitors during the exhibition period from June 4 to September 9 in 1966.

Noise music recordings

  • 1963 ‘Sounds of Sculpture’, 7”, Minami Gallery, Tokyo, Japan_[Tinguely’s sculptures recorded by avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi during Japanese exhibition]
  • 1972 ‘Méta’, book+7_, Propyläen Verlag, Stockholm
  • 1983 ‘‘Sculptures at The Tate Gallery, 1982_, Audio Arts cassette
  • 1983 ‘Meta-Harmonie H’ incl. in ‘Meridians 2_ compmqenan ate a pie
  • 2001 ‘Relief Meta-Mechanique Sonore I’ incl. in ‘A Diagnosis’ compilation, Revolver-Archiv Für Aktuelle Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Influence on others

In Arthur Penn's Mickey One (1965) the mime-like Artist (Kamatari Fujiwara) with his self-destructive machine is an obvious Tinguely tribute.

See also

Further reading

  • Museum Tinguely in Basel
  • Chapter on Tinguely in Calvin Tomkins' The Bride and Her Bachelors.
  • K.G. Pontus Hultén: Jean Tinguely 'Méta'. London: Thames & Hudson, 1975 (original German version Frankfurt/M.: Ullstein, 1972)
  • G. Bischofsberger: Catalogue raisonné, 3 Vols. Basel, 1982.
  • Margit Hahnloser-Ingold: Pandämonium – Jean Tinguely. Bern: Benteli, 1988 (rather hagiographic, but with interesting personal memories and background material)
  • Heidi E. Violand: Jean Tinguely's Kinetic Art or A Myth of the Machine Age. Diss, New York University, 1990
  • Museum Jean Tinguely (eds.): Die Sammlung. (The collection) Bern: Benteli, 1996 (incl. an interesting biographical report by Margit Hahnloser: "Jean Tinguely und die Schweiz")
  • Museum Jean Tinguely (eds.): Jean le Jeune. Basel: Benteli, 2002 (incl. a biographical text by Jocelyn Daignes about Tinguely's early love of materials and machines, his pacifism, and his Catholicism, p. 23-65).


  1. Leu, Aia. The Art of the Leu Family, SeedPress, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9551109-2-4. (p. 13).
  2. "The Garden Party", report about Homage to New York (1960) by Billy Klüver, reprinted in: Pontus Hultén (ed.): The Machine as seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. Exhibition catalogue. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968, p. 168-171.

External links