Bechtler Celebrates Entrancing Work of Jean Tinguely

EXPERIENCING “SANTANA” IS AKIN to hypnosis. The all-black kinetic sculpture begins to self-mobilize in a chaotic, jarring set of maneuvers before settling into a circular trance. The piece was crafted by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely in 1966, and later, it was purchased by friend and collector Hans Bechtler. The piece embodies a sense of wonder carried across Tinguely works, and surpsingly, Tinguely’s story is tethered to the city of Charlotte.

Jean Tinguely: “Jean Tinguely Meta,” “L’execution,” “Requiem for a Dead Leaf,” “Chaos,” “Albatros,” & “Bascule”
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

This is why the Bechtler Museum of Art, named for the Bechtler family, now offers more than 150 works by the artist and his contemporaries in a new exhibition: "Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana." “Santana” is one of three major Tinguely sculptures, as well as many prints, collages, and drawings, in the Bechtler’s collection.

But that’s not the artist’s only existing tie to the Charlotte community. Tinguely, who died in 1991, had one last major commission: “Cascade,” located in the Carillon building on Trade and Church in uptown Charlotte. The 50-foot, motorized mobile is a Charlotte arts treasure, and the The Bechtler recently had its own 1/4 model of “Cascade” erected to honor Tinguely. Andreas Bechtler commissioned the sculptural ode, crafted by the hands of Gene Hopkins and in partnership with Wagner Murray Architects.

Another Tinguely tie to Charlotte: He was once married to Niki de Saint Phalle, the artist behind the iconic “Firebird” statue in front of the Bechtler. Together, they were an unlikely duo behind some of Charlotte’s most memorable pieces of public art. 

Niki de Saint Phalle: “Love Letter to my Love for Art for Research portfolio” & “Untitled”  1970
© 2017 Niki Charitable Art Foundation. All rights reserved / ARS, NY / ADAGP, Paris 

"Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana” takes all of this into account and more, taking us back to the artist's childhood. Tinguely, whose father was a factory mechanic, began making art early in life. On jaunts throughout the forest in Basel, Switzerland, he’d mount “ small water wheels in the creeks to create sound sculptures,” the Bechtler says. This began a lifelong fascination with both the natural world and man-made, mechanical creations

The sketches included in the exhibit show how the creations traveled from the artist’s mind to the world. It’s in these diagrams and notes that Tinguely dreamed up sculptures that would either behave on their own or invite the viewer to interact with them. All exhibited an inherent lifeforce that seem beyond the capabilities of the objects used to construct them. Yet, just like Tinguely’s own influence in Charlotte, they live on.

Recently, the Bechtler took yet another step to bridge Tinguely’s work to the world. Artwork by the artist was installed on The Green, located across the street from the uptown museum, as part of the Inside|Out Charlotte project. The effort, a collaboration with the Gantt Center and funded by Knight Foundation, reproduces works from the two Charlotte museums and places them within arms’ reach of the public in the outdoors.

"Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana” starts on May 12 and runs through September 10 at the museum. Read more here. Also: Did you know that the Museum Store is an extension of the Bechtler's collection? Be sure to stop by during your visit and check out the Tinguely and Niki merchandise for sale.

Exhibition related programming will include:
Family Day at the Bechtler | May 13 Hands-on art activities based on the techniques of Swiss kinetic artist Jean Tinguely
Modernism + Film | May 18 Screening of the documentary Tinguely
Bechtler By Night | May 19 Gear Up and create kinetic sculptures out of found objects
Music and Museum | May 21 The Bechtler Ensemble perferms Generations: New Music Celebrating Tinguely's Santana with a dance performance
Guest Lecture | June 26 Presented by conservator Reinhard Bek
Guest Lecture | August 23 Presented by artist Hoss Haley
Charlotte Ballet | September 8 A ballet performance, Machine and Matisse, with an opening talk by curator Jennifer Sudul Edwards, Ph.D.

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The automated drawing machine by @hosshaley will be one of the most intriguing and hypnotic pieces on view in #CelebratingTinguely, opening May 12 in the fourth floor gallery. #Bechtler #TheBechtler #BechtlerMuseum #clt #cltArts #weloveclt #charlotte #charlottesgotalot #exploreclt #levinecenterart #longlivearts #CultureForAll

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