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Tinguely's art on the move in Basel

Margrit Hahnloser with Guido Magnaguagno, who succeeded her as director of the museum


Wheels are in motion - literally - to speed up the rate of exhibitions at a Basel museum devoted to the works of one of the 20th century's leading exponents of kinetic art, Jean Tinguely.

Fribourg-born Tinguely, who died in 1991, is best-known for his sculptures which are like fantasy machines and depend on movement for effect. He made them from everyday objects and, in particulary, with metal from abandoned machinery.

Since it opened five years ago, the Jean Tinguely Museum has introduced the sculptor's work to a much wider public than had previously been possible, attracting tens of thousands of visitors of all ages from Switzerland and abroad.

And it is to satisfy the growing demand for access to works which add a new dimension to the phrase "art movement", that the museum authorities have just announced plans for at least two major temporary exhibitions a year.

"We are doing this to help keep Tinguely's work alive," museum director Guido Magnaguagno told swissinfo.

Magnaguagno recently took over as director after working for over 20 years at the fine arts museum (Kunsthaus) in Zurich, and says with a smile that there was almost an inevitability about his career move.

"I knew Jean personally and will always remember something he once said to me while we were having a coffee together in the Kunsthaus restaurant: 'Guido,' he said, 'you're at the wrong place in the Kunsthaus'."

Magnaguagno is, like his predecessor as director of the Basel museum, Margrit Hahnloser, both an authority on and a great admirer of Tinguely's art.

Hahnloser, who is now considering writing a biography of the sculptor, told swissinfo that perhaps the biggest satisfaction she gained from working there was that the museum had become "a sort of guarantee" that
Tinguely's machines would live on for future generations.

"I'm also very happy that the machines are safe and in working order," she added, referring to the interactive nature of many of them and their appeal to children.

Exhibitions scheduled for 2001 include one featuring works by an old friend and disciple of Tinguely, the sculptor Daniel Spoerri. A former theatre director, Spoerri also creates his art from everyday objects, and describes himself as "a director of the object".

Another exhibition will feature sculptures and pictures by Tinguely's widow, Nikki de Saint Phalle, who has made important donations of her late husband's works to the museum's permanent collection.

by Richard Dawson


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