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25th anniversary of Tinguely's death Jean Tinguely, the sculptor of machines

The internationally-known Swiss artist died on August 30, 1991, at the age of 66. He was most famous for his whimsical kinetic sculptures – they were cheerful and playful, creative and humorous, but there was also a touch of melancholy.

Tinguely, also known as Jeannot, was born in Fribourg, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, but grew up in Basel. He trained as a decorator, and was using wire figures early on in his shop windows.

He first started to make moving sculptures in 1954. Over the next years, his art works gained him an international reputation: for example waves were made with the huge self-destructing mechanical sculpture in the garden in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1960).

From the end of the 1970s water became ever more present in his works. Later, Tinguely included animal material, such as bones and skulls. Light was also a theme, such as in his Luminator from 1991, his last major work.

Tinguely was married to the artist Niki de Saint Phalle – his second marriage – and is buried in Neyruz, canton Fribroug, where he lived for many years. His grave features a kinetic sculpture.

(Text: Gaby Ochsenbein,, picture editor: Ester Unterfinger,

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