Turn On – Jean Tinguely Goes Electric in Paris

This postcard from Paris won't explode, we promise. But we can't say the same for the weird and wonderful machines of Jean Tinguely, on view in Paris. Matthew reports on this (potentially) explosive show. – Artblog Editor

Jean Tinguely, “Radio WNYR n°10.” Plexiglass sheet, metal fixtures, radio, electric motor. 42 1/8 x 42 1/8 x 7 1/8 in.

When Jean Tinguely unpacked his “Hommage to New York” in 1960 and turned it on in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art on March 17, 1960, the sculpture did more than self destruct–it exploded, caught fire, and was drowned by the New York Fire Department. But art history was made amid the shattering bottles, smoke spumes, and firey blow up. Tinguely had brought his kinetic junk to the world of art and succeeded in spectacular failure.

A small curated show of Tinguely’s machines from the 1960s is now on view now through the end of October at Galerie Vallois, in the art district just off of Métro Odéon and across the way from the art canteen La Palette.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the artist’s death (Tinguely, born in Switzerland, died at 66 in Bern in 1991), the exhibition explores the artist’s fascination with sound and movement, geometric abstraction, and three-dimensional sculpture that foreshadows in many ways the late career reliefs of Frank Stella. But these pieces, and much of his 60s sculptures with their idiosyncratic movements, lights, and seeming pointlessness echo the roto-reliefs of Duchamp and plunge into the Dadaistic concerns of the New Realists that for a few years took over the art world from Paris in the 1960s.


Pictured here is Radio WNYR No. 10, a large open sandwich of plexiglas, radios, electric motors, speakers, wires, and an electric cord to juice to the piece. First shown at Sydney Janis in NYC in 1962, the sculpture is in an edition of 10 and during the exhibition goes off in a jerky, but regular eruption, every hour–like its own private alarm clock.

A lovely black and white film playing in a loop in the back of the gallery clues visitors in on Tinguely’s storied history turning junk into lively, noisy, and delightful art.

Jean Tinguely ‘60s, Galerie VALLOIS / 33 & 36, rue de Seine 75006 Paris, France