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Tinguely captured on camera

Tinguely with his "Luminator" installation in Basel in 1991 (Leonardo Bezzola)

A photographic record of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely at work and at play during the last 30 years of his life is on view at the Tinguely museum in Basel.

One of the 20th century's leading exponents of kinetic art, Tinguely is best known for sculptures made from everyday objects.

The photos appear alongside installations created by Tinguely, who was particularly keen on using metal from abandoned machinery for his sculptures.

From 1960 until his death in 1991, a photographic record was made of him by Leonardo Bezzola, who also became a close friend.

Bezzola and his camera were present at just about every major preview, exhibition installation, happening and collaboration in which Tinguely was involved.

At the same time, Bezzola was always interested in Tinguely as a person, photographing his circle of friends, workshops, living quarters and private life.

The result can now be seen, for the first time on such a scale, in juxtaposition with the artist's work - some 200 photographs chosen by Bezzola from the 30,000 pictures he took over three decades.

Vitality

Taken as a whole, the images represent an important link between Tinguely and his work, and make a major contribution to interpreting the artist's oeuvre. But most of all they convey Tinguely's great vitality - a vitality that imbued all areas of his life and work.

"He was a perfect subject," Bezzola told swissinfo. "Always making poses, without realising he was doing it. It was in his nature... he was like a dancer."

Bezzola had already established a reputation for taking photographs of other artists at work when he first encountered Tinguely at the end of the 1950s.

"Strangely," he said, "I can't recall our first meeting. According to my diary it was in Bern in 1959. But my memories of him date from 1960, when I began the photographic record."

The photographs are grouped thematically and focus on individual works such as the "Grosse Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia" and the "Luminator". There is also a series of portraits of Tinguely.

A second part of the exhibition, which ends on August 3, is devoted to pictures taken by Bezzola of other artists, architecture, the Mediterranean and automobiles.

swissinfo, Richard Dawson

In brief

Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was born in Fribourg and spent much of his working life in Paris. He collaborated on many projects with other artists, including his second wife, the late Niki de Saint Phalle.

He began the 1960s by creating a self-destructing machine sculpture in the garden of New York's Museum of Modern Art, and in the years which followed his output included weird and wonderful sculptures made from everyday objects and machinery.

Tinguely would use almost anything which had been discarded or abandoned by its owner to create examples of kinetic art depending on movement for effect.

Between 1960 and 1991, a photographic record was made of him by Leonardo Bezzola, who also became a close friend. Bezzola and his camera were present at just about every major preview, exhibition installation, happening and collaboration in which Tinguely was involved.

Two hundred of the 30,000 photographs are now being exhibited at Basel's Tinguely museum, which opened in 1996.

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