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.
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.
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.
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.
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