The Scintillating Cyclop
Jean Tinguely, Le Cyclop, 1969-1994 (FNAC 95419)
Donated by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle to the State in 1987 / Centre national des arts plastiques
Hidden for 53 years in the heart of the Milly-la-Forêt woods in the Essonne department, Le Cyclop has been reborn following over a year of restoration work overseen by the Centre national des arts plastiques (CNAP). This colossal creation, the fruit of a collaboration comprising some fifteen artists, once again welcomes visitors following its 22 May 2022 reopening. The perfect opportunity to (re)discover the singular story of this utopia built by a multitude of hands.
Le Cyclop, a long-lived collective adventure, from 1969 to the present day
Le Cyclop is a monumental sculptural work whose 350 tonnes of steel rise 22.5 metres amidst the woods of Milly-la-Forêt (Essonne department, Île-de-France region). Created by Jean Tinguely with the assistance of Niki de Saint Phalle, his wife and their artist friends, the work’s distinctive metallic, modular structure was conceived from the outset as a space for sharing and collaborating with other artists, notably Eva Aeppli, Seppi Imhof, Bernhard Luginbühl, Arman, César, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Pierre Raynaud, Jesús Rafael Soto, Rico Weber, Larry Rivers, Philippe Bouveret and Pierre Marie Lejeune. In this manner they imagined their own works for the site, thereby contributing to this titanic adventure stretching from 1969 to 1994. Niki de Saint Phalle created La Face aux miroirs for Le Cyclop between 1987 and 1989.
In 1987, the two artists donated Le Cyclop to the French State to ensure the work’s protection and conservation. Le Cyclop was duly added to the national art collection managed by the Centre national des arts plastiques (CNAP). In 1988, the Ministry of Culture delegated the site’s management to the Association Le Cyclop, whose mission was to open the site to the public.
A vast restoration project
The topography of the site in addition to weather exposure makes conservation of Le Cyclop particularly challenging. The objective today is to restore Le Cyclop’s integrity, working with the artists or their beneficiaries.
This complex project is overseen by three contractors: GFTK for architectural aspects, Phung Consulting for HVAC and Ecovi for quantity surveying. Throughout the project, a team of some twenty specialists in glass, metal, ceramic, textile, plaster and contemporary materials will work on-site and in their studios to restore the various elements that make up Le Cyclop. The two major restorations focused on La Face aux miroirs by Niki de Saint Phalle and Hommage aux déportés by Eva Aeppli, with notably the participation of the A-Corros company.
All of Le Cyclop’s works benefitted from cleaning to varying degrees. The restoration project also served as the opportunity to restore or dust a portion of those works installed within Le Cyclop, from La Colonne by Niki de Saint Phalle to Hommage à Yves Klein and La Méta-Harmonie by Jean Tinguely, not to mention La Jauge by Jean Pierre Raynaud, Hommage à Mai-68 by Larry Rivers, Le Tableau électrique by Rico Weber and Piccolo Museo by Giovanni Battista Podestà.
The documentary platform
An online documentary platform dedicated to Le Cyclop was launched upon the site’s reopening. This archival platform was born to remedy the scattering and fragmentation of the various archival sources, as well as the difficulty of comprehending the history and chronology of this singular creation in all of its specificities and different phases of construction.
This platform is the fruit of two years of collaboration between several French and foreign archival collections: the Niki Charitable Art Foundation, the Museum Tinguely of Basel, the Fribourg Museum of Art and History and the Association Le Cyclop. A collective project designed to further evolve and grow over the coming years as it welcomes additional partners.
It provides access to Le Cyclop’s history via archives associated with the work’s 25 years of design, creation and construction. Currently containing over 3,000 individual resources and addressing a diverse, international public, this multilingual platform constitutes a powerful digital tool for promoting its mutualized documentary collections.
To mark this long-awaited reopening, the CNAP and the Association Le Cyclop have joined together to publish a book dedicated to this singular work. The art critic
Catherine Francblin relates the incredible collective human adventure that would give birth to the ‘Monster in the Forest’ following twenty-five years of artistic collaboration. Numerous archival images by Leonardo Bezzola also relate the history of the site’s construction, from the arrival of the first mechanical beams to the work’s final inauguration by President François Mitterrand. Additional photographs by Tadashi Ono present a full-colour tour of all works within ‘The Head’. Publication available for purchase at the Milly-la-Forêt site for €9.