A Museum of Kinetic Art in Basel, Switzerland

A small blurb about the Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel in my Switzerland guidebook mentioned a museum full of “playful mischievousness” that you aren’t allowed to touch. The text was uninspired and I almost skipped right over the entry but I decided to give it a go and just leave if the museum turned out to be a dud.

The current exhibit at the Tinguely Museum, Car Fetish, did not disappoint and after 3 hours, I had to drag my 6 year old out the door.

Tinguely car fetish

The artist took cars and examined them from every angle, beginning with pulling one apart and displaying it in pieces on wires. Seemingly to reassemble the old VW Bug, one would need to simply cut the wires and smush the Bug back together.

VW Bug all blowed up

This display is open to some interpretation, especially if you forget to read the signs. Cool people watching a race? Or mourners? I don’t know what the artist had in mind but the simplicity was interesting.

Car race

There were several art pieces that used light in various ways. One piece is a giant moving statue with a movie reflected off mirrors onto white walls. Another stack of tires with an image display of cars circling down into the abyss.

Tinguely also experimented with using light as art. A bare, white wall was painted with the image of a black car and a projector placed a woman with a scarf in the car. The light changed, showing movement of the scarf and the car on the road.

Woman with a scarf projected with light

This large structure is a walkable work of art. Metal staircases and walkways through the sculpture mean an inside view of the work of art. The front of the sculpture has a carousel horse mounted. From inside the sculpture, my daughter was excited to see that only half the horse made it into the art work. The artist cut the horse lengthwise before mounting it.

Walkable art display with carousel horse

For a Swiss man, Tinguely had an odd fascination with cow skulls attached to the front of cars. Several of the cars had somewhat of an American Texas or Western motif with skulls attached to the front or other parts of the car. The image of death contrasted with a lace parasol protecting the passenger in the back.

In a way, the car fetish exhibit reminds me of a preschooler playing with playdoh. Every aspect of the playdoh needs to be examined, touch, taste, smell, and so on. The exhibit looked at cars in more ways than I dreamed possible. The museum was a fascinating afternoon full of movement and art. I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Basel.


About megan

working in between travel days
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