Jean Tinguely: A Life in Motion
Jean Tinguely (1925–1991) was a Swiss sculptor best known for his mechanical sculptures, officially known as “metamatics,” that extended the Dada tradition into the later part of the twentieth century. Born in Fribourg, Switzerland, and raised in Basel, Tinguely studied art at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule (General Trade School) before moving to Paris in 1952. There, he lived and worked among a vibrant community of European artists who came together in search of radical alternatives to the dominant aesthetics of their time, specifically lyrical abstract painting. Using collage and assemblage techniques, this new generation of artists sought to dissolve the traditional boundaries between art and life. For Tinguely, this meant developing a compelling body of kinetic motorized sculptures and related works cobbled together from scraps and the detritus of urban life that barely hold together when in motion.
In addition to being one of the most important and forward-thinking European artists to emerge in the latter half of the twentieth century, Jean Tinguely was also the partner of Niki de Saint Phalle, a close friend of the Bechtler family and the artist who created the iconic Le Grand Oiseau de Feu sur l’Arche on the Bechtler Museum’s entrance plaza. On view are three major sculptures and a selection of painted and collaged illustrated letters sent to various members of the Bechtler family.