The Artist Birthday Series

Jean Tinguely

"Heureka," by Jean Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland. Created 19
“Heureka,” by Jean Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland. Created 1963-4

In 1966, Tinguely, along with Niki de Saint-Phalle and Per Olof Ultvedt, created the Hon-en-Katedrall (sometimes spelled “Hon-en-Katedral“) art installation exhibited at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The work was a large scale sculpture of a colorful pregnant woman lying on her back with her legs wide apart. The sculpture was 25–26 meters long, about 6 meters high and 11 meters wide. It was constructed of scaffolding and chicken wire, covered with fabric and fiberglass, then painted with brightly-colored poster paint. Visitors would enter the work through an opening in the location of the woman’s vagina, returning to the womb, as it were. Once inside, they were to find a screen showing Greta Garbo films, a goldfish pond and a soft drink vending machine, all the while being entertained by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, played through hidden speakers. The piece was exhibited from June 4 to September 9 in 1966, and during that time had over 80,000 visitors.

Installation of "Hon-en-Katedrall," Tinguely
Installation of “Hon-en-Katedrall,” created by Jean Tinguely, with Niki de Saint-Phalle, and Per Olof Ultvedt (pictured right to left).

One of his most celebrated works was created in 1970, when he and a group of friends create La Vittoria in front of the Milan Cathedral, in Milan, Italy. It was a giant golden phallus which, with much pomp and circumstance, burns to the ground as part of the festival celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nouveaux Réalistes.

la vittoria 1
Phase 1 of “La Vittoria,” by Jean Tinguely, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Nouveaux Réalistes, a group he founded in 1960 with the delightful Yves Klein, and others.
la vittoria 2
Phase 2 & 3 of “La Vittoria,” by Jean Tinguely. The sculpture is revealed and then set on fire. The event was to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Nouveaux Réalistes, a group he founded in 1960 with the delightful Yves Klein, and others.
la vittoria 3
Phase 4 of “La Vittoria,” by Jean Tinguely. The sculpture had been set on fire and now remains only the frame. The event was to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Nouveaux Réalistes, a group he founded in 1960 with the delightful Yves Klein, and others.

In 1971, Tinguely married his second wife, his long time creative partner, Niki de Saint Phalle.

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