Jean Tinguely: 'Spiral' (1965)

Institute exhibition
25th September 2013 - 5th January 2014
Gallery 4

Jean Tinguely
'Spirale (Rörelse)'

Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones

Swiss artist Jean Tinguely (1925-91) began experimenting with mechanical sculptures in the late 1950s, exploring how animated objects could initiate sculptural events. Welding scrap metal and spinning motors, while celebrating chance and staging self-destructing machines, Tinguely unleashed creative forces to deny sculpture its monumental status. In 1960 he created 'Homage to New York', a vast machine made of castoff objects, including motors, bicycle wheels and piano parts. Displayed in the Sculpture Garden of New York's Museum of Modern Art before an invited audience, the sculpture self-destructed in a twenty-seven minute spectacle, discharging coloured smoke, making paintings and shattering bottles accompanied by sounds of a radio, a recording of the artist's voice and banging metal drums.

'Spiral' belongs to a group of sculptures Tinguely developed in the mid-1960s. Like his earlier works, the sculpture consists of welded iron and wooden elements, but in distinction he coated the sculpture entirely with matt black paint to give a uniform and defined character to the found components. Visitors are invited to press the red button, which rushes 'Spiral' into a spinning motion. Tinguely described these sculptures, in a conversation with the curator Harald Szeemann, as being 'relatively soundless and civilised' compared to his earlier haphazard and noisy machine-sculptures'.

Until 20 October 2013 Jean Tinguely: 'Spiral' (1965) is paired with Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture in Galleries 1, 2 & 3, linking to the exhibition through Billy Klüver. An engineer, Klüver was the founder in 1966 of Experiments in Art and Technology, an organisation connecting artists and engineers. Klüver worked with Andy Warhol on 'Silver Clouds' (1966), on view in Indifferent Matter, and with Tinguely on 'Homage to New York'. From 21 November 2013, Jean Tinguely: 'Spiral' (1965) sits alongside Dennis Oppenheim: Thought Collision Factories in Galleries 1, 2 & 3 and Stephen Cripps: Pyrotechnic Sculptor in the Upper Sculpture Study Gallery. Together they explore the possibilities of sculpture harnessing technology, sound, event and movement to subvert the perception of sculpture as a static and immobile medium.


The display has been supported by The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and we acknowledge the generous support of Roche and the Museum Tinguely, a cultural commitment of Roche, in helping to make this exhibition possible.

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