Museum Tinguely – Basel, Switzerland - Atlas Obscura

Basel, Switzerland

Museum Tinguely

An interactive exhibition space dedicated to the kinetic sculptures of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. 

On the banks of the Rhine in Basel, Switzerland, Museum Tinguely houses a permanent collection of drawings, paintings, sculptures, and kinetic automata crafted over four decades by seminal Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. From intimate assemblages of found objects to colossal installations comprised of auto parts and industrial castoffs, Museum Tinguely is dedicated to the life and work of this visionary postwar artist. 

Tinguely, who lived from 1925 to 1991, was one of the most influential avant-garde sculptors of the 20th century’s latter half. His practice was dominated by a fascination with the machine—from the potential of its functional processes to the clamor that rings out from an apparatus in motion. His modernist sculptures were forged in the Dada and Nouveau Réalisme traditions, intended as satirical commentaries on craft-less industrial production.

Museum Tinguely boasts the world’s largest collection of the artist’s imposing modernist sculptures, many of which activate with the push of a button on the floor. The museum also incorporates special exhibitions of work by artists whose practices have been influenced by Tinguely’s. 

The grounds of this Mario Botta-designed museum are populated with a kinetic fountain entitled Schwimmwasserplastik Fontaine (1980) by Tinguely, in addition to artworks by Tinguely’s contemporaries, including French-American sculptor, painter, and filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle (who was also Tinguely’s second wife), and French painter and sculptor Yves Klein.

Can’t get enough Tinguely? Pay a visit to the Carnival Fountain (1977), also referred to as the “Tinguely Fountain,” a playful kinetic water sculpture located on the site of a former performance stage near the Kunsthalle Basel.

Know Before You Go

Museum Tinguely is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11am to 6pm. The museum is closed on Mondays, as well as Swiss National Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and St. Stephen’s Day. The museum’s on-site bistro, Chez Jeannot, is closed for renovation through December 2019, but the Roth Bar, created by Swiss conceptual artist Dieter Roth in the artist’s signature style comprised of found objects, will remain open.

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