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When scrap becomes art

Basel is the Swiss city of art par excellence. This is evidenced by its first-rate art museums and the Art Basel art fair. Yet the next generation of artists doesn’t have to hide its light behind a bush either. That includes the young duo of artists Cicolupo – Filip Wolfensberger and Pascal Martinoli.


On the road with the artist duo Cicolupo in the city of Basel

Following in the footsteps of established sculptors such as Jean Tinguely and Bernhard Luginbühl, they create imposing works of art from scrap metal.

Birsfelden is situated in the southeastern outskirts of Basel. The port of Birsfelden is part of the Swiss Rhine ports, and various industrial companies have settled in the port district: the Basel chemical industry, shipping companies, body manufacturers and construction companies. Welding, hammering and drilling also take place at Sternenfeldstrasse 16 in the port district, yet things are a little different here than in the rest of the neighborhood. After all, this is where Cicolupo’s workshop is located – and where art is created.

The Basel artists’ collective Cicolupo

Cicolupo has been in existence since 2010, when four friends with different backgrounds decided to join forces. The quartet included Pascal Martinoli, Filip Wolfensberger, Joel Lobsiger Vargas and Manou Clément. Today, Martinoli and Wolfensberger are at the heart of Cicolupo. The duo specializes in scrap metal, from which it creates idiosyncratic sculptures.

Turning scrap metal into works of art

Many of Cicolupo’s works are somewhat reminiscent of the works of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. Similar to Tinguely, Cicolupo often use scrap metal from junkyards for their sculptures. On this basis, the group has already created some monumental works, such as a gigantic elephant made from metal components. Today, the sculpture can be seen at Thommen Recycling in Kaiseraugst, a company that has become Cicolupo’s “scrap sponsor”, so to speak. The group of artists has also welded together a rhinoceros sculpture, “Rhino” for short, and created a shark for a nightclub.

The machinery artist

The biography of Jean Tinguely, who has inspired many of the works of Cicolupo, is closely linked to the city of Basel. Born in 1925 in the French-speaking Swiss city of Fribourg, Tinguely grew up in Basel before moving to Paris in the early 1950s. The painter and sculptor is considered one of the great Swiss artists and the main representative of kinetic art. Above all else, Tinguely became famous for his moving, machine-like sculptures. He often used waste- and scrap metal as the raw materials for his work.

Tinguely also remained connected with the city of his childhood at the height of his creative output. In 1977 he completed the Tinguely Fountain in Basel. On the old site of the stage of the former City Theater, Jean Tinguely positioned playful machine sculptures in a pool of water, and thereby gave Basel a new landmark. Even though Martinoli and Wolfensberger have walked past the Tinguely Fountain countless times, they always enjoy spending time there. Tinguely’s works of art continue to fascinate them time and again.

The Tinguely Museum – the first address for the life and work of Jean Tinguely

Five years after his death, a museum was opened in Basel in honor of the artist: With the world’s largest collection, the Tinguely Museum has been the first address for the life and work of Jean Tinguely since 1996. A masterpiece in its own right is the building designed by Mario Botta which houses the museum. And the park in front of the museum is also home to impressive works of art by contemporaries who played an important role in Tinguely’s life.

These include the sculpture Gwendolyn (1966) by the artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who was married to Jean Tinguely until his death. Or the work Dickfigur Beteigeuze (1996) by Bernhard Luginbühl: Jean Tinguely had a long-standing friendship with the Swiss sculptor and iron sculptor. Cicolupo also include Luginbühl among their greatest artistic role models.

Turning scrap metal into works of art


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