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JEAN TINGELY. TORPEDO INSTITUT (2015) is a book that reconstructs the monumental project that Jean Tinguely created, from 1988 until his death in 1991, in an old factory that he bought in La Verrerie, between Bulle and Vevey, in the canton of Fribourg where he lived in Switzerland .

The Torpedo Institut - which Tinguely declared to be an anti-museum upon his arrival in the area - is the largest work ever conceived by the artist. The industrial spaces in which it is being developed cover more than 3,000 square metres. They are obscured by imposing steel plates, which Tinguely closes off all the openings to the Fribourg countryside. The artist wanted to live and work in the night. In the various rooms of the Torpedo Institut, the artist orchestrates one hundred and twenty of his machines that rotate and squeak and scream in the dark. They represent the whole of the creator's career: here we find the Meta Malevitch or Meta Kandinsky from the beginnings, the Klamauk of 1979, the Grande Meta Maxi Utopia presented in 1987 in Venice, the Dernière Collaboration avec Yves Klein of 1988, The Retable de l'abondance occidentale et du mercantilisme totalitaire of 1990, four-handed pieces made with Milena Palakarkina. Tinguely also presented his artist friends in the Torpedo Institut: more than twenty figures by Eva Aeppli standing on a pedestal in the first room, in the second room an Oiseau amoureux by Niki de Saint Phalle: the imposing sculpture is eight metres high and runs on rails. Further on, there is a gigantic Atlas by Bernhard Luginbühl. All of these pieces were commissioned for the site by the sculptor, who is still showing works by Robert Rauschenberg, Yves Klein, Keith Haring, Ben Vautier, Daniel Spoerri, Alfred Hofkunst and other artists from Fribourg, which, as in the museum reserves, are hung on large sliding gates that Tinguely calls the Bilderbahnhof. In the Torpedo Institut, Tinguely also gathered together objects that were dear to him: Ferraris, a World War II aeroplane hanging upside down or a time clock on which he wanted visitors to stamp as they entered the place.

Far away from the major centres and glitzy museums that are flourishing at the end of the millennium, far away from the record attendance of the consumerist exhibitions that mark the era, Tinguely intends to open his anti-museum to a limited public. Visitors are invited to book well in advance and are given a specific day and time. They are greeted by an indifferent secretary, whose specifications, drawn up by the artist, state that her main occupation is nail varnishing. They are provided with headphones with incomprehensible commentary. Each one must therefore manage alone with the works, in the maze, darkness and traps reserved for them by the artist, and venture to begin under a monumental guillotine placed at the entrance to the first room.

With the Torpedo Institut, Tinguely summed up his lifelong anti-art attitude. Did he not say: For thieves there are prisons; for artists there are museums?

When the sculptor died suddenly in August 1991, the Torpedo Institut was practically completed. After the death of the artist, it was the subject of much discussion and controversy. Under painful circumstances, it was finally dismantled - against the wishes of the artist, who had declared in his will that he wanted the work to survive him.

Olivier Suter, Jean Tinguely. Torpedo Institut, 256 pages, numerous illustrations, Edition Patrick Frey, Zürich. French edition out of print. German edition available.

A first version of Jean Tinguely. Torpedo Institut, was published in 2010 by Pro Fribourg, book 169, Fribourg.




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