Press Release - Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana

MAY 08, 2017

(CHARLOTTE, NC) - The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art presents Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana from May 12 through September 10 in the fourth floor gallery. This exhibition will be a survey of over 80 artworks spanning the forty year career of this revolutionary Swiss kinetic artist.

Bechtler Curator, Jennifer Sudul Edwards, Ph.D., organized the show with loans from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, along with the Bechtler Museum’s holdings, which includes three kinetic sculptures, 42 original drawings, 23 prints, as well as a quarter-scale model of Tinguely’s last commissioned installation, Cascade, the original of which churns five blocks east of the museum. An auxiliary show of Tinguely’s contemporaries, including Bernhard Luginbül, Hansjürg Brunner, Fischl and Weiss, and Niki de Saint Phalle will offer a historical context for Tinguely’s innovations. Supplemental educational programming will relay his continued importance. Finally, the museum has the personal connection of the founding patron, Andreas Bechtler and his father, Hans, who had close relationships with the artist and his circle.

The son of a factory mechanic, Tinguely first started making art as a child, wandering the woods outside his home in Basel, mounting small water wheels in the creeks to create sound sculptures. He made art out of what he knew and what surrounded him, the natural movement found in the world with the industrial materials lying around his house.

He moved to Paris in 1953 and would spend the rest of the decade pioneering kinetic art, beginning with gently bouncing springs or swinging arms and advancing to automatic drawing machines called Meta-mechanics, which, like a carnival fortune teller, would make you a drawing for the price of a token.

This performative element of the work married to the acknowledgement of the viewer as a participant would continue throughout the next forty years of Tinguely’s work. Some of the work remained interactive, with the viewer activating the sculpture with the push of a button, but in others, the sculptures whirl with balletic grace continually as in the Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, done in partnership with his frequent collaborator Niki de Saint Phalle, or clank occasionally to life in solitude as in Cyclops, the monumental installation hidden in the French forest of Milly-le-Forêt.

Dr. Sudul Edwards adopted a unique perspective for the Bechtler exhibition: “There have been a number of European shows over the last twenty years examining Tinguely’s importance, both historically and for contemporary artists. However, this is the first to investigate the central nature of collage in his practice. Because of the Bechtler family’s personal relationship with Tinguely from the early 1960s until his death in 1991, the museum has a number of collages. Tinguely gifted over 100 of them to Andreas Bechtler just before he died, in fact. Also, these are delightful objects to enjoy—you can lose yourself for an hour in one 12 by 8 inch rectangle.”

The Bechtler is also honored to show North Carolina artist Hoss Haley’s Drawing Machine for the first time in Charlotte. Haley reminds us that Tinguely not only continues to influence artists working today, but inspires our regional artists. Haley says of Tinguely’s work: “For me, it spoke of something else, the seduction of the machine. I grew up around agricultural machinery and had a level of comfort with the language of moving parts, but I had never seen it used in this way—as a form of expression. My relationships with machines have been an important part of my career as an artist. Most often they are a means to an end, but with this drawing machine I feel I’m able to approach the spirit I felt seeing Tinguely’s work nearly 30 years ago.”

This is the second Tinguely exhibition at the Bechtler: Charlotte independent curator June Lambla organized Remembering Cascade, on view from September 9, 2011 through January 16, 2012. However, Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana is the largest exhibition of Jean Tinguely displayed in an American museum.


Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana was made possible with a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council and our media partner, WFAE. Conservation work on the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Tinguely sculptures came from three Charlotte families:  Chandra and Jimmie Johnson, Nelia and Michael A. Verano, and Aundrea and Stephen Wilson. Two Bechtler-produced films, one on the conservation of the sculptures and another on the relationship between Jean Tinguely and the Bechtler family, have been made possible by the MetLife Foundation.


When posting about Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana on social media, please use the official hashtag: #CelebratingTinguely. Follow the Bechtler on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @theBechtler.


The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to the exhibition of mid-20th-century modern art. It is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler who assembled and inherited a collection created by seminal figures of modernism. The museum is located at Levine Center of the Arts, 420 South Tryon Street, Charlotte 28202. Operating hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. For museum details visit


Artwork images from Bechtler Collection: Relaunched and Rediscovered are available upon request. Contact, Sharon Holm, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Director of Marketing and Communications at or office 704.353.9204 / mobile 704.975.2363.


Sharon Holm, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Director of Marketing and Communications - or office 704.353.9204 / mobile 704.975.2363.

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