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Le Cyclop

de Jean Tinguely

History

22.5 metres high and 350 tons of steel… Le Cyclop is a monumental sculptural work that dominates the forest of Milly-la-Forêt (Essonne, Île-de-France). Created by Jean Tinguely with the help of his wife Niki de Saint Phalle and their artist friends (Bernhard Luginbühl, Rico Weber, Daniel Spoerri…), the sculpture comprises an immense head without a body, covered in sparkling mirrors, with a single eye, an ear that weighs a ton, and a mouth from which a trickle of water runs down a slide-tongue. Its interior houses a surprising universe that can be discovered over the course of a labyrinthine route punctuated with artworks and curiosities that are both humorous and sombre: sound sculptures, a small automatic theatre, machinery with scrap-metal gears, etc.  Dada, Nouveau Réalisme, Kinetic Art, and Art Brut: four movements rub shoulders in this rich work. Also known as La Tête (The Head) or Le Monstre dans la forêt (The Monster in the Forest), Le Cyclop is a unique monument in art history. But it is above all the fruit of a collective adventure, built with friends, a utopia forged over numerous years by a “team of mad sculptors”, centred around the figure of Jean Tinguely.

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    Le Cyclop, photographie © Tadashi Ono

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    Le Cyclop, photographie © Tadashi Ono

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    Le Cyclop, photographie © Tadashi Ono

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    Le Cyclop, photographie © Tadashi Ono

The latter developed an art based on movement, chance, relative speed, and sound. His sculptures, made from the scraps of industrial society, assemblages of rusty scrap metal, question and unsettle viewers, challenging them with humour and derision. His “anti-machines” are a criticism of Western society: they are useless in that they produce nothing, but nevertheless strive to highlight the flaws of modern technology by ridiculing it. In 1956, Jean Tinguely met Niki de Saint Phalle. As soon as they met, they began producing art together. Throughout their lives, they would be a mutual source of inspiration for each other, both on a human and an artistic level. Complicity, love, rivalry, exchange, and confrontation formed the basis of their collaborations.

In 1968, Jean Tinguely and his friend, sculptor Bernhard Luginbühl, worked together on the Gigantoleum project. They wanted to build a huge sculpture-architecture, a playful interactive space bringing together various artistic fields. The site was to house a circus, fairground attractions, a theatre, cinema, restaurant, and even a huge aviary with thousands of birds! However, the Gigantoleum never saw the light of day. No sponsor wanted to finance this overly expensive and ambitious project. Consequently, Jean Tinguely decided to construct Le Cyclop.

In 1969, work on the project began in the woods around Milly. Jean Tinguely realized that the only way to carry the project through to fruition was to finance the work himself, allowing him to work in complete freedom. No architect participated in its construction and only the artists, with courage, strength, and tenacity, gradually built this titanic sculpture. It took ten years of hard labour to erect Le Cyclop and another fifteen years before everyone’s contributions were put in place.

In 1987, in order to ensure the protection and conservation of the structure, the artists decided to give Le Cyclopto the French State. It entered the collection of the Cnap (National Centre for the Visual Arts). In 1988, the French Ministry of Culture delegated the management of the site to Le Cyclop Association, whose mission is to maintain the site, oversee public visits, and promote the work. In 1991, following the death of Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint Phalle embarked on a mission to complete the sculpture by financing the last remaining artworks, while respecting the ideas of her late companion as much as possible. In May 1994, Le Cyclop was inaugurated by French President François Mitterrand, and opened to the public. Niki de Saint Phalle decided that Le Cyclop was now finished and that from that time onwards, no other artwork was to be added.

Restoration 2021

The Cnap commits to the restoration of Le Cyclop by Jean Tinguely

In March 2021, the National Centre for the Visual Arts launched the restoration campaign of Le Cyclop. The site had closed its doors in October 2020 to make way for the vast restoration project that would last a little over one year.

The topographic situation of Le Cyclop and the climatic conditions it faces over the seasons make its conservation particularly complex. The objective was to restore the integrity of Le Cyclop, with the support of the artists or their heirs. The delicate restoration project involved three specialized companies: the architectural firm GFTK, the engineering firm Phung Consulting, and Ecovi, in charge of construction. Throughout the duration of the project, an ensemble of some twenty art restorers, specializing in glass, metal, ceramics, textiles, plaster, and contemporary materials brought their expertise to the site, and in their workshops successfully restored the various components of Le Cyclop.

Setting down the eye of The Cyclop

Two major restoration projects: La Face aux miroirs and L’Hommage aux déportés

La Face aux miroirs (The Face of Mirrors) posed a significant challenge when it came to its restoration. Covered in mirrors by Niki de Saint Phalle in 1987, this work measuring over almost 325 square metres, began to deteriorate in 1996 due to the alteration of the mirrors’ silvering, but also because of the growth of micro-organisms that caused the mirrors to detach. In 2002, the first consolidation tests were carried out, and in 2006, other alterations were carried out, before the establishment of a contract in 2008 to set up a hands-on learning project in collaboration with the Institut national du patrimoine (National Heritage Board). This intervention made it possible to establish the history of the work, a condition report, and a diagnosis, including recommendations for its sustainable restoration. This preliminary document was especially informative but the condition of the sculpture continued to deteriorate and became dangerous for visitors.

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A net was put over the structure in January 2012. A report on the sanitary condition of the work was then commissioned and submitted by the Historical Monuments Research Laboratory in 2014, after which the Cnap agreed on an intervention with the beneficiaries of Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle. This intervention was to consist of a major restoration campaign, which would include replacing all of the 55,000 mirrors on the front of the sculpture. The operation was carried out with the utmost respect for the original layout, supervised at the time by Niki de Saint Phalle, including cutting mirrors without right angles, and modulating the size of the fragments to suit the shape of the face. In order for the mirrors to match the initial composition in every way, a latex printing process was devised for each section, then allowing a transfer by stamping on paper to create templates for the cutting of the mirrors. The new mirrors restored the work’s original brilliance, while respecting the original intention of the artist: the aim was to camouflage the head by having it reflect the surrounding environment. In 2013, the restoration of La Face aux Miroirs benefited from the financial support of a number of companies: 3DO Reality Capture, which carried out the 3D survey of La Tête (The Head), and Saint-Gobain, which provided the 628 square metresof solar mirrors required for the project, and the sealant manufactured by Saint-Gobain’s Weber subsidiary to glue the mirrors. Clairefontaine provided the paper for the creation of the templates.

  • Surveying and demarcating the surface

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    Surveying and demarcating the surface

  • Applying natural latex

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    Applying natural latex

  • Making latex imprints before embossing on paper

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    Making latex imprints before embossing on paper

  • Cutting and numbering the mirrors on the paper template

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    Cutting and numbering the mirrors on the paper template

  • Preparing the surface

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    Preparing the surface

  • Affixing and  placing mirrors

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    Affixing and placing mirrors

The other major operation involved the restoration of L’Hommage aux déportés (Homage to Deportees) by Eva Aeppli. Evoking the horrors of the Holocaust, the work consists of a 1930s French rail wagon suspended on a platform over 13 metres in height, inside of which are 15 figures in white silk and brown velvet. Very degraded, the wagon of Eva Aeppli’s piece was entirely restored after the treatment of the damaged wooden slats. Thermal insulation and the replacement of the air conditioning inside the wagon have made it possible to maintain the sculptures in a stable climate, thereby ensuring their proper conservation.

The restoration project also affordedthe opportunity to improve the watertightness of the basin of Jean Tinguely’s Hommage à Yves Klein, to restore and clean part of the artworks inside Le Cyclop, from La Colonne by Niki de Saint Phalle to La Méta-Harmonie, as well as La Jauge by Jean-Pierre Raynaud, Le Pénétrable sonore by Jesús Rafaël Soto, l’Hommage à Mai 68 by Larry Rivers, Le Tableau électrique by Rico Weber, and the Piccolo museo by Giovanni Battista Podestà.

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Le Cyclop : retour sur une restauration exceptionnelle.

Le Cnap retrace la restauration de cette œuvre colossale à travers un film documentaire.

En suivant le processus de restauration du Cyclop de Jean Tinguely, le documentaire produit par le Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap) retrace l’aventure d’un chantier exceptionnel, à l’image de ce monstre mythologique caché dans les bois de Milly-la-Forêt, et dont la tête peut de nouveau se camoufler en réfléchissant son propre environnement.

Un film documentaire produit par le Centre national des arts plastiques (France, 2022, 10’)

Réalisation : Jean-Nicolas Schoeser (Trystero)
Images : Jean-Nicolas Schoeser (Trystero), Grimaud Bouveret et Patricia Lecomte
Voix : Gaëlle Savary
Direction : Béatrice Salmon, directrice du Centre national des arts plastiques
Responsable éditorial et conception : Sandrine Vallée-Potelle, cheffe du service de la communication, de l’information et des ressources professionnelles
Coordination et rédaction : Alexandre Clouzot et Nina Gangloff, chargés de communication au service de la communication, de l’information et des ressources professionnelles
Avec la participation de Philippe de Viviés, conservateur-restaurateur du patrimoine, co-gérant d’A-CORROS
Crédit musique : Brylie Christopher Oxley – Remnants of Effervescence

Individual visits

Le Cyclop is open every year from early April to the end of the October midterm break. 


The site is open to the public (except groups / schools) on Saturdays and Sundays from 10.30am to 6.30pm.
Open from Wednesday to Sunday at the same times during the school holidays: from Wednesday 6 July to Sunday 28 August 2022, and during the October midterm break from Wednesday 26 October to Sunday 6 November 2022.

Access to the site is free and without charge. 
Le Cyclop can be visited as part of a guided tour, lasting 45 minutes. 

Tour times

Morning: 10.30am – 11.15am – 12pm.
Afternoon: 2pm – 2.45pm – 3.30pm – 4.15pm – 5pm & 5.45pm.

No reservations necessary, tickets are sold on-site at the ticket desk of Le Cyclop.
LGroup visits should include no more than 25 persons. Access to a guided tour depends on the availability of spaces at the visitor’s time of arrival. 

Please note that for safety reasons, access to the inside of Le Cyclop is not allowed for children under the age of 8, even when accompanied by an adult.

Admission fees

Full price: €9 
Reduced rate: €6

Reduced rate for: children from 8 – 18 years, students, job seekers, persons with disabilities, Deux-Vallées residents, holders of the Pass Éducation and/or Maison des Artistes card.
Free for: holders of the Culture, Icom, and Press cards, and Aica members.

Le Cyclop is part of the Pass Culture scheme.

The space can be privatized and private visits made on request by contacting the association.

School Groups

Le Cyclop welcomes school groups during the week (outside of school holiday periods), from Monday to Friday, upon reservation only.

Please note that for safety reasons, access to the inside of Le Cyclop is not allowed for children under the age of 8, even when accompanied by an adult.

Eight years +

Le Cyclop can be visited as part of a guided tour, lasting 45 minutes. 

Groups should consist of 23 pupils and 2 accompanying adults maximum. Larger groups will be broken into smaller ones who can visit the site on consecutive tours.

Rate: €6 per pupil

Free for accompanying adults (2 per visit).

Under eight years

For younger visitors, we organize guided tours of the exterior of Le Cyclop. Tours last 45 minutes. There is no limit on numbers but to ensure everyone’s comfort, we recommend no more than 2 classes at a time.

Rate: €5 per pupil

Free for accompanying adults.

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Adult groups

Le Cyclop welcomes groups during the week (outside of school holiday periods), from Monday to Friday, upon reservation only.

Le Cyclop can be visited as part of a guided tour, lasting 45 minutes. 

Groups should consist of 25 persons maximum. Larger groups will be broken into smaller ones who can visit the site on consecutive tours.

Rate: €7 per person.
Social/disability rate: €6 per person and free for the accompanying adult.

Accessibility

Visitors with reduced mobility

Parking spaces are reserved for visitors with reduced mobility at the entrance to the site. All the infrastructures around the Le Cyclop are accessible and suitable for wheelchair users.

Le Cyclop is a complex structure, created in secret by artists between 1969 and 1994, without any architectural supervision, designed in total freedom, without safety standards and concerns for accessibility. As a result, the structure has only stairs to access its four levels. Its status as a work of art, listed in the inventory of the Centre National des Arts Plastiques, prevents any modification from being made to the architecture of the work. Therefore, we are unable to offer tours of Le Cyclop’s interior to visitors with reduced mobility. However, free outdoor tours are available to these visitors.

Intellectually disabled and neurodiverse visitors

The public relations team of Le Cyclop Association offers visits adapted to intellectually disabled and neurodiverse visitors. These tours can be proposed individually or in groups. 

Hearing-impaired visitors

Le Cyclop Association is committed to offering tours for the hearing-impaired public. However, as our team of guides is seasonal, we cannot guarantee visits in the French Sign Language (LSF) every year. Feel free to contact us during the season to find out more.

Visually-impaired visitors

Le Cyclop Association is committed to offering tours for the visually impaired public. Unfortunately, this offer is not yet fully developed. We are currently looking for a partnership with one or more specialized structures or associations that work with the visually impaired, in order to design and implement a suitable tour for such visitors. Feel free to contact us for more information.

Educational resources

School groups, prepare your visit in advance!

Consult our educational resources organized according to different school levels in order to prepare your visit beforehand or learn more about the site afterwards.

  • Under 8: (coming soon)
  • Primary and Junior High School: (coming soon)
  • Senior High School: (coming soon)

Artistic program

Current

The Sparkling Cyclop – Season 2022

For exactly ten years, Le Cyclop Association has opened the site to contemporary creation. The impressive force of Le Cyclop and its structure provide or impose a certain number of artistic guidelines. The role of the Association is to accompany artists in the creation of artworks around four main axes linked to its history: joint creation; the correlation between music and the visual arts; performance, and nature, which is of course, the setting of this remarkable work. Le Cyclop has become a place of regular meetings and exchanges between the public and guest artists.

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DAVIDE BALULA

Dust and Spores on a dancer’s Cloths

Performance / Sunday, 22 May 2022 at 11am & 3pm
Four dancers, dressed in white, perform a choreography, where the primary intention is to smear their clothes with earth and forest plants. This performance reminds us that nature cannot be understood without recognizing that the air, human beings, micro-organisms, the soil, minerals, and machines are more inseparable than ever.
 

CATY OLIVE

L’appel de la nuit (The Call of the Night)

Light installation from 22 May to 6 November 2022
Caty Olive has created a light installation for Le Cyclop, which is activated at dusk on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Providing a soft, luminous, and ephemeral transition between day and night, this installation reveals all the beauty of the metal and subtle assemblies designed by Jean Tinguely and Seppi Imhof, reminiscent of a kind of metallic lace. It also highlights the graphic layout of Niki de Saint Phalle’s mosaic.

JENNIFER CAUBET & THOMAS TEURLAI

Juste avant le point de rupture  (Just before breaking point)

Exhibition 18 June to 6 November 2022 – Opening Saturday, 18 June 2022 at 8:30pm
Two artists, Jennifer Caubet and Thomas Teurlai, who work, amongst other things, on installation and volume, are presented as an aloof duo, both in terms of form and the occupied space. Their shared interests merge in moments of tension and breaking points, which both develop in their respective installations.

ÉRIC GIRAUDET DE BOUDEMANGE

Sang Corrompu (Corrupted blood)

Performance Saturday, 15 October 2022 at 8:30pm
Offsite at Hans-Walter Müller’s residenceat Cerny Aerodrome (Essonne).

Éric Giraudet de Boudemange, the artist-in-residence for 2021 at Le Cyclop, is invited to showcase the fruit of his work, entitled Sang Corrompu. It is a poetic and philosophical reflection on the post-truth era, expressed by glass puppets manipulated by both breath and fluids.

From 22 May to 6 November 2022

Video programme – Guest curator: Jean-Baptiste Delorme – Heritage Curator at the Cnap.

  • Chaos-Monde: Bruno Botella, Julien Creuzet, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh et Hesam Rahmanian, Laure Prouvost, Pipilotti Rist, Anne-Marie Schneider
  • On nature: Maria Theresa Alves, Hicham Berrada, Adrian Paci, Julien Prévieux et Virgine Yassef, Ana Vaz, Ezra Wube

In collaboration with the Conservatoire national des plantes aromatiques, médicinales et à parfum*, Le Cyclop Association is launching an artist’s residency programme in the autumn of 2022 to explore our relationship to the environment, plants, and living creatures.

*National Conservatory of Aromatic, Medicinal, and Fragrant Plants

Cultural agenda

Visit of the exhibition 

Saturday, 2 July at 3:30pm – Visit of the exhibition Juste avant le point de rupture, at Le Cyclop  
With : Jennifer Caubet & Thomas Teurlai – Visual artists; François Taillade – Director of Le Cyclop Association and Curator of the exhibition.

 

Meeting with a student researcher

Sunday, 18 September at 3:30pm – Conference at LeCyclop
Theme: Arman (artist).
With: Léa Levasseur – Student researcher.

Cultural meetings on the first Saturdays of the month

Saturday, 4 June at 3:30pm – Round-table discussion about the restoration of LeCyclop at the Château de Fontainebleau
In partnership with the Festival de l’Histoire de l’Art de Fontainebleau. With:

  • Philippe de VIVIÉS – Co-director and Head of Heritage at A-CORROS
  • Jean-Baptiste DELORME – Heritage Curator at the Cnap.

Saturday, 3 September at 3:30pm – Conference at LeCyclop
Theme: Niki de Saint Phalle’s role in the creation of LeCyclop.
With: Catherine Francblin – Art Critic and Historian, Independent curator.

Saturday, 5 November at 3:30pm – Round-table discussion at the Maison du Parc, Milly-la-Forêt
In partnership with the Parc naturel régional du Gâtinais français. Theme: Looking back over ten years of artistic production. 
Theme: Looking back over ten years of artistic production.
With: François Taillade – Director of Le Cyclop Association.

Contact

Contact the association Le Cyclop


Office adress 
19 chemin de Moigny – 91490 Milly-la-Forêt – France

+33 1 64 98 95 18
association@lecyclop.com

Team


François TAILLADE
Director

Jean-Baptiste CLERC
Administrator

Fleur COLOMBINI
Visitors relation

Fatima FONSECA
Cashier Manager

Thierry RUDA
Technician

Schedules

Le Cyclop is open every year from early April to the end of the October midterm break. 


The site is open to the public (except groups / schools) on Saturdays and Sundays from 10.30am to 6.30pm.
Open from Wednesday to Sunday at the same times during the school holidays: from Wednesday 6 July to Sunday 28 August 2022, and during the October midterm break from Wednesday 26 October to Sunday 6 November 2022.

Le Cyclop welcomes groups during the week (outside of school holiday periods), from Monday to Friday, upon reservation only.

Access

Located in the extension of the Pasteur street, 66 (forest side). From Paris A6 freeway: Exit 13 « Milly-la-Forêt », towards Milly. At the traffic circle when entering Milly head towards Etampes (D 837). After 200 meters, take the lane on your right showing the signpost Le Cyclop. It will lead you to the parking lot. Then follow the pedestrian path.

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