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Museum Tinguely offers fresh perspectives on Jean Tinguely's innovative practice
Jean Tinguely, Meta-Matic No. 10, 1959. Museum Tinguely, Basel. Donation Niki de Saint Phalle. © 2018 Museum Tinguely. Photo: Daniel Spehr.

BASEL.- In keeping with Jean Tinguely’s motto «Everything moves! Rest does not exist!», Museum Tinguely in Basel presents the museum’s collection in a new permanent show offering fresh perspectives on the artist’s innovative practice. Across variously designed spaces on three storeys, the expanded presentation covers the Swiss artist’s work from 1955 to 1990. With added works on loan, key themes are explored, as well as aspects and groups of works that have received little attention to date, like his early works with sound, the series of Débri(s)collages (1974) and the models for the Wettstein Bridge (1990).

With the digital exhibition guide «Meta-Tinguely», the museum is also launching a new educational aid with information and playful interactive elements in three languages.

This summer, Museum Tinguely opens the new expanded presentation of its permanent exhibition on a surface of 1200 square metres. As well as c. 60 kinetic sculptures from the museum’s collection, the monographic exhibition includes sixteen works on loan from private collectors and Swiss museums. On display are also several key works from the museum’s collection of 140 sculptures that have not been exhibited for some time: Relief méta-mecanique sonore II (1955), Ballet des Pauvres (1961), Plateau agriculturel (1978) and Café Kyoto (1987). The show also includes drawings by the artist, as well as photographs, films and documents from the museum’s extensive archive.

Arranged thematically in roughly chronological order, the presentation showcases the artist’s main groups of works, as well as adding new topics, bringing out aspects that have received less attention. In several places, thanks to the addition of specific works on loan, it is now possible to make comparisons and gain an overall picture of entire groups of works.

Just as Jean Tinguely himself experimented with different approaches to exhibiting artworks during his lifetime (1925–1991), the new permanent exhibition presents the works in different ways. The themes and groups of works are presented in the form of a tour with display formats varying from room to room, ranging from the classic «neutral» white cube to suggestive and immersive formats. The new show also benefits from the results of recent research into the (exhibition) history of the featured works.

Museum Tinguely creates new presentations of its collection at intervals, offering a series of new perspectives on the artist’s innovative practice. In 2017, for example, Tinguely’s Mengele-Totentanz (Mengele Dance of Death, 1986) was put on display in a specially built room. A year earlier, in 2016, the museum showed all of his Méta-Harmonies together for the first time, in an exhibition entitled «Music Machines/Machine Music».

Tour of the exhibition
The exhibition begins on the upper floor with Tinguely’s early works from the second half of the 1950s. The first room contains the early wire sculptures and reliefs on which the artist founded his reputation as a pioneer of kinetic art. Based on historical photographs of his studio in Paris, Impasse Ronsin, the works, including many loans, are presented in a wall-filling hanging. In the next room, all of the artist’s early works designed specifically as sound machines can be seen together for the first time: the Reliefs Méta-mécanique sonore I and II (both made in 1955, the first on loan from Kunsthaus Zürich), and Mes étoiles – Concert pour sept peintures (1957–1959). Based on recent research findings, the interactive work Mes étoiles is shown against a black wall, as the reliefs were presented by the artist at Galerie Iris Clert (1958) and Galerie Schmela (1959). Other topics from this period dealt with here are the invention of the Méta-Matic drawing machines and their evolution into the sculptures of Le Transport, Tinguely’s cooperation with Yves Klein, and his activities in the Rhineland.

On the second floor, three rooms focus on the central creative phases of the 1960s, beginning with three films showing Tinguely’s destruction actions of the early 1960s. In an immersive presentation, the films are projected onto screens hanging from the ceiling. The next room is dedicated to Tinguely’s works made out of trash, which then contrast in the third room with his series of black sculptures made from the mid-1960s. Because they are painted black, the individual components of the sculptures retreat into the background, leaving the focus on the various ways the machines move, from elegant and light to heavy and aggressive. The last room contains the large-scale Plateau agriculturel, a key work from 1978 made out of agricultural machines that has not been exhibited at Museum Tinguely since 2013.

Finally, the museum’s basement floor takes a look at the artist’s late work from the 1970s until 1990. New exhibits include a group of kinetic sculptures from the Débri(s)collages series (1974), Tinguely’s humorous homage to «do-it-yourself man» combining drills and brightly coloured feather dusters. Two works from this series from the museum’s own collection are joined by two works loaned from private collections. Also here is Pit-Stop (1984), a work Tinguely created at a Renault factory, as well as the relief Incitation à la Création (1981), also commissioned by Renault. Another focus is Tinguely’s designs for the Wettstein Bridge in Basel. His models for the so-called Geisterschiff (ghost ship) stand in the centre of the room, surrounded by posters and drawings by the artist, as well as archive material. This is the first time the designs and Tinguely’s role in this central town-planning project in Basel around 1990 have been examined historically, making these little-known works accessible to a broader public. The basement show is topped off by Café Kyoto, a hall of mirrors with tables, chairs and colourful moving lamps. Elsewhere in the museum, visitors can also see two large scale, permanently installed sculptures by the artist: the walk-in Grosse Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia (1987) and the Mengele-Totentanz (1986).

Meta-Tinguely – a digital exhibition guide
As another new feature, Museum Tinguely is launching «Meta-Tinguely», a digital exhibition guide for visitors of all ages. The guide contains information on the artist’s life, offering a tour of the museum’s collection via a selection of nine works. Structured by three questions for each work, «Meta-Tinguely» offers information about the works in various formats. As well as explanatory texts and short quotations, there are pictures, galleries, animations and videos. In addition, fun facts, interactive features and instructions enable a playful approach to Tinguely’s art. The guide also allows visitors to become actively involved. The museum deliberately chose a format that goes beyond the usual smartphone-based audio guides, connecting with the avant-garde, interactive and ludic potential of Tinguely’s art in this medium. The inclusion of a video for each featured work means that works rarely or never activated in the exhibition space for conservation reasons can be experienced in motion and with their sounds.

«Meta-Tinguely» is available in three languages – German, French and English – and can be used as a web app on a smartphone via the museum’s website. Free wifi access is available for all visitors.

The new permanent exhibition was curated by Sandra Beate Reimann, who was also responsible for designing and project-managing the «Meta-Tinguely» exhibition guide that was realized in cooperation with Weisswert (visual design) and Sukoa AG (web applications).

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