Giacometti 1

Jean Tinguely, Santana, 1966, painted black iron, wood and electric motor. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana

Location: Fourth-floor Gallery Time Period: May 12, 2017 - September 10, 2017

From May 12, 2017 through September 10, 2017, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art will present Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana, a survey of over 150 total artworks, including five original kinetic sculptures, spanning the forty-year career of this revolutionary Swiss kinetic artist.

Starting in the mid-20th-century, Swiss native Jean Tinguely cobbled art together with a tinker’s touch. The son of a factory mechanic, Tinguely first started making art as a child, wandering the woods outside his home in Basel, mounting small water wheels in the creeks to create sound sculptures. He made art out of what he knew and what surrounded him, the natural movement found in the world with the industrial materials lying around his house.

He moved to Paris in 1953 and would spend the rest of the decade pioneering kinetic art, beginning with gently bouncing springs or swinging arms and advancing to automatic drawing machines called meta-mechanics, which, like a carnival fortune teller, would make you a drawing for the price of a token. This performative element of the work married to the acknowledgement of the viewer as a participant would continue throughout the next forty years of Tinguely’s work. Some of the work remained interactive, with the viewer activating the sculpture with the push of a button, but in others, the sculptures whirl with balletic grace continually as in the Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, done in partnership with his frequent collaborator Niki de Saint Phalle, or clank occasionally to life in solitude as in Cyclops, the monumental installation hidden in the French forest of Milly-le-Forêt.

Tinguely continues to be well-known and well-loved in Europe 23 years after his death in 1993. He is equally influential among artists in the United States, though he is less well-known by the general public. Yet his legacy can be seen in contemporary art being made throughout the world, and in the immediate North Carolina region.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is in a unique position to mount an exhibition of Tinguely’s work. In addition to loans from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the museum has three major sculptures in the collection, as well as 42 drawings and 23 prints illustrating Tinguely’s process. The Bechtler also benefits by its proximity to Tinguely’s last major commission, Cascade, located in the Carillon building on Trade and Church in uptown Charlotte. Finally, we have the personal connection of our founding patron, Andreas Bechtler and his father, Hans, who had close relationships with the artist and his circle.


There are seven total kinetic sculptures in the exhibition. The 1/4 scale replica of Cascade (commissioned by Andreas Bechtler and constructed by local model maker Gene Hopkins in 2001) can be seen in the museum's lobby everyday (except Tuesday) without paying admission. It is controlled by a timer, and will automatically turn on for 30 minutes every hour, on the hour.

Santana (pictured above) can be brought to life by pressing the floor-mounted button in front of the sculpture at any time. L'exécution can also be operated in the same manner, but once activated, they cannot be reactivated again until five and a half minutes have passed. Meta-Malevich can only be operated by museum staff, and will only be operated each afternoon at 3:30. Bascule and Le Buffle are also operable by museum staff, but will only be operated every Friday afternoon at 3:30.

Finally, Hoss Haley's Drawing Machine is controlled by several motion detectors that are installed throughout the gallery. By simply moving around and viewing the art, you will participate in the machine's illustrations. As always, we ask that you do not touch the sculptures either when sedentary, or in motion.


When posting about Celebrating Jean Tinguely and Santana on social media, please use the official hashtag: #CelebratingTinguely. Follow the Bechtler on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @theBechtler.

JeantingJean Tinguely - Albatros
© 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to the celebration and analysis of the strongest aspects of mid- century modernism as reflected in the holdings of the Bechtler collection.

The collection comprises
more than 1,400 works by 20th-century modern artists. Some works are accompanied by books, photographs and letters illustrating personal connections to the Bechtler family.


An Individual Membership with unlimited access to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is $50.

find out more

ex © 2023 Bechtler Museum of Modern Art All images and content copyright. All rights reserved. Credits: Design: MODE. Artwork Photography: JoAnn Sieburg-Baker, David Ramsey General Photography: Eric Bahrs, Mitchell Kearney, Gary O'Brien, Nancy Pierce, Maxim Vakhovskiy Copywriting: Pam Davis Charlotte Skyline Photo: courtesy of Visit Charlotte School of Paris: John Boyer (Copy), MODE (Design)
© 2023 Bechtler Museum of Modern Art | 420 South Tryon Street | Charlotte, North Carolina 28202 | 704.353.9200