‘La Fontaine des Automates’ by Tinguely: Art at the Châtelet

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‘La Fontaine Stravinsky’, more commonly called ‘La Fontaine des Automates’, is a work at the intersection of many arts imagined by Jean Tinguely after a public works order from then-mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac, the French Minister of Culture, and the Centre Pompidou museum. The idea: create a link between the visionary architecture of the Centre Pompidou and the Gothic arches of the Saint Merri church. In 1983, Tinguely’s work was officially presented to the public. An unparalleled monument that mixes sculpture, painting, architecture, urban design, and music, the Fontaine Stravinsky plays the composer’s operas such as The Firebird (1910), The Rite of Spring (1918), or Petrushka (1911). Composed like an aquatic ballet, populated by a bestiary straight out of the work of Igor Stravinsky, its figures were made of polyester and mounted on a steel structure by Niki de Saint Phalle.

‘La Fontaine des Automates’ is composed of 16 sculptures – seven monochrome mechanical creations by Jean Tinguely, six opulent and colorful pieces by Niki de Saint Phalle, and three pieces created by the two together. This piece beats at the heart of Châtelet in Paris today, but the artistic and technical problems encountered during its creation were numerous and often seemed impossible to overcome. The study of movement at the heart of Jean Tinguely’s work finds a formulaic expression here through an extensive work with sound machines. The colorful curves and impeccable volumes of Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculptures reinforce the fountain’s aesthetics and meaning. This piece serves as a link between different time periods of Paris, touched up by a postmodern aesthetic that still honors its heritage.

A veritable aquatic opera, ‘La Fontaine des Automates’ is exuberant – its sculptures frolic in the water and seek to re-enchant our daily lives, bringing joy and insouciance to Parisians. This legendary neo-realist couple brought the world a complex work of arms and crank handles that rhythmically whir to life: “I wanted an innocent and marvelous fountain… I wanted sculptures like street artists, a circus side that was Stravinsky’s underlying style when he had a marvelous encounter with jazz in 1914,” explained Jean Tinguely. This sculptural fountain makes music visible with a cracking of pistons counterbalancing the lapping water. This is one of the many treasures that Paris offers to wanderers of its streets.

In addition to this exhibition, it is possible to find in Milly the Forest another surprising work of Jean Tnguely and Niki Of Saint Phalle, the Cyclop, it is worth the detour. Without forgetting the painting 100 Years of the British painter Peter Doig who is an iconic art object, through an exploration of memories by another face of contemporary creation

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