Panorama photo of Jean Tinguely’s Chaos I, by Thomas Schiff


Chaos I

Chaos I, Jean Tinguely
Family pictures with Chaos I
Chaos 1 from southeast

Chaos I, 1974

Chaos I is a seven-ton kinetic (moving) sculpture by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely (1925-1991). The 30-foot high piece is the largest work by Tinguely in the United States.

Tinguely, a colorful character sporting a bushy moustache, took up residence in Columbus’s former city powerhouse near Mill Race Park for nearly two years from 1973 to 1974. Locals have wonderful memories of the artist-in-residence. Tinguely became a regular at the local “watering holes” during that time.

Chaos I cycles through a series of motions to simulate a day in a life, beginning slowly at first, adding movements and then winding down again. At the peak of its chaotic movements, steel balls roll and crash through a caged track, making a ruckus.

So special is Chaos to the community, for the three years that the new Commons was being constructed, it was safely protected in a climate-controlled box while The Commons was razed and rebuilt all around it.

The architect of the original Commons, Cesar Pelli, first suggested to J. Irwin Miller, CEO of Cummins Engine Co., that a sculpture by Tinguely would be the perfect centerpiece to this downtown facility. Pelli said, “We would like a great magnet, a focal point such as the old town clock…a place for people to meet and greet one another.”

The work was commissioned by J. Irwin and Xenia Irwin Miller and Clementine Tangeman in late 1971.

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