News — 8 Sep 2016

Amsterdam, 8 September 2016 - Swiss artist Jean Tinguely (1925–1991) is famous for his playful, boldly kinetic machines and explosive performances. Everything had to be different, everything had to move. Precisely twenty-five years after his death the Stedelijk opens the largest-ever exhibition of the artist to be mounted in a Dutch museum. With over a hundred machine sculptures, most of which are in working order, paired with films, photos, drawings, and archive materials, the presentation takes the public on a chronological and thematic journey of Tinguely’s artistic development and ideas, from his love of absurd play to his fascination for destruction and ephemerality.

The presentation features his early wire sculptures and reliefs, in which Tinguely imitated and animated the abstract paintings of artists such as Malevich, Miró, and Klee; the interactive drawing machines and wild dancing installations constructed from salvaged metal, waste materials, and discarded clothing; and his streamlined, military-looking black sculptures.

The Dylaby artists, to the right Jean Tinguely and Niki de St. Phalle

Primeur in the Netherlands: Mengele-Totentanz 

Tinguely’s enourmous self-destructive installations from 1960–1970, designed to spectacularly disintegrate in a barrage of sound, are a special feature of the Stedelijk presentation. The survey ends with a dramatic grand finale, the remarkable, room-filling installation, Mengele-Totentanz (1986), a disturbing display of light and shadow never previously shown in the Netherlands. Tinguely realized the work after witnessing a devastating fire, reclaiming objects from the ashes to piece together his installation: scorched beams, agricultural machinery (made by the Mengele company), and animal skeletons. The final piece is a gigantic memento mori, yet also an invocation of the Nazi concentration camps. Its juddering movements and piercing sounds evoke a haunting, grisly mood.

Mengele-Totentanz, 1986

Play, interaction and spectacle

Tinguely created his work as a rejection of the static, conventional art world; he sought to emphasize play and experiment. For him, art was not about standing in a sterile white space, distantly gazing at a silent painting. He produced kinetic sculptures to set art and art history in motion, in works that animated the boundary between art and life. With his do-it-yourself drawing machines, Tinguely critiqued the role of the artist and the elitist position of art in society. He renounced the unicity of “the artist’s hand” by encouraging visitors to produce work themselves. 

Tinguely collaborated extensively with artists like Daniel Spoerri, Niki de Saint Phalle (also his wife), Yves Klein, and others from the ZERO network, as well as museum directors such as Pontus Hultén, Willem Sandberg, and Paul Wember. Thanks to his charismatic, vibrant personality and the dazzling success with which he presented his work (and himself) in the public sphere, Tinguely was a vital figure within these networks, acting as leader, inspirator, and connector.

Gismo, 1960, collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Relation with Amsterdam and the Stedelijk Museum

Amsterdam has enjoyed a dynamic history with Tinguely. The exhibitions Bewogen Beweging (1961) and Dylaby (1962), for which Tinguely was (co)curator, particularly underline the extraordinarily close relationship that sprang up between the museum and the artist. Not only did he bring his kinetic Méta machines to the Netherlands, he also brought his international, avant-garde network, leaving an enduring impression on museumgoers who flocked to see these experimental exhibitions. Close relationships with Willem Sandberg, then director of the Stedelijk Museum, and curator Ad Petersen prompted various retrospectives and no less than thirteen acquisitions of sculptures for the collection.


A catalogue will be published to mark the exhibition. Based on years of research conducted by the Stedelijk Museum and Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, the publication contains essays by several Tinguely experts, among them Margriet Schavemaker, Barbara Til, and Beat Wismer. 


Performance Bewogen Bewegen

Friday, 30 September, 7.30 pm
After a successful collaboration with the Dutch National Opera on the occasion of the exhibition ZERO - Let Us Explore the Stars, the Stedelijk will celebrate the opening of Jean Tinguely - Machine Spectacle with a newly-written opera: Bewogen Bewegen. This performance follows the exhibition of Tinguely who is best known for his playful kinetic art.
Please click here for more information and reservations.

Lose Yourself! – A Symposium on Labyrinthine Exhibitions as Curatorial Mode

2, 3 and 4 February 2017
The exhibition is accompanied by a symposium, with the playful exhibitions Dylaby(1962) and HON–en Kathedral (1966) as starting point, so the legacy of these ‘labyrinthical' way of exhibition making can be examined. The symposium is organised by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Moderna Museet Stockholm, the Tinguely Museum Basel, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis (OSK). 
Please click here for more information and reservations.
The exhibition also offers a free audio guide in Dutch, Engelish, French and German. On the ground floor, our Family Lab will be Tinguely's Head Quarters, where visitors can create their own art with kinetic, Tinguely-like machines.

Note to editors:

You are kindly invited to attend the press preview on Thursday, 29 September.
2.30 pm: doors open, enter throught the main entrance
3 pm:      welcome by Beatrix Ruf, director Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 
followed by an introduction by curator Margriet Schavemaker
3.15 pm: preview
5 pm:      end of preview.

Please click here for your RSVP.
The catalogue is already available to you in PDF, please let us know if you wish to receive it.

For more information and images, please contact the Press Office of the Stedelijk Museum, +31 (0)20 573 26 660 / 656 or

Image credits:
- Jean Tinguely with Méta-Matic No. 17, 1959. Photo: John R. Van Rolleghem, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016
- The artists of the Dylaby exhibition: Per Olof Ultvedt, Robert Rauschenberg, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1962. © Christer Christian | Strömholm Estate
- Jean Tinguely, Mengele-Totentanz, 1986. Collection Museum Tinguely Basel - a cultural commitment of Roche. Photo: Daniel Spehr, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016
- Jean Tinguely, Gismo, 1960. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016
- Jean Tinguely, Meta-mechanical sculpture without title, 1954. Privat collection Potsdam. Photo: Christian Baur, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam, 2016

This exhibition is organised by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in collaboration with Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf.

This exhibition is made possible with generous support of the Turing Foundation, All Art Initiatives B.V., the Blockbusterfonds, the LUMA Foundation and additional support by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, the Walter A. Bechtler Foundation, Switzerland and Museum Tinguely, Basel.