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Couleur dans l'espace
(Colours in space)

1951
Plexiglas, oil paint
78.5 x 57 x 26 cm / 30 7/8 x 22 1/2 x 10 1/4 in

‘Space contains a number of qualities. It expands in all directions. It is without limits. It is uninterrupted, which means that a volume occupies a part of the void; and a void and volume make space. The great truth, the absolute truth, makes itself visible to our mind by means of the invisible.’ —Georges Vantongerloo

Champ magnétique
(Magnetic Field)

1951
Colored Plexiglas, nickel wire
35 x 26 x 15 cm /
13 3/4 x 10 1/4 x 5 7/8 in

Georges Vantongerloo

Working across painting, sculpture, architectural design, photography, and writing, Georges Vantongerloo presented a new vision of the world in the 20th century. Born in the age of the paraffin lamp, Vantongerloo experienced a reality wholly redefined by scientific discovery: by developments, both optimistic and tragic, in atomic physics; by the emergence of plastics with all of their material and economic potential; and by the cosmological and mathematical findings that laid the groundwork for the 1957 launch of Sputnik and the space race. The artist was inspired and invigorated by these discoveries as well as by what remained unknown, the to-be- discovered. ‘As matter is transformable, energy is also transformable, but not always measurable by our means’, he wrote in 1954. ‘The universe is neither finite nor infinite; immeasurable, it is energy formed by unlimited energy’. [2]

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Georges Vantongerloo, born in Antwerp, Belgium, was an artist, architect, and theorist who became a member of the De Stijl group. While living in Holland and working on architectural designs during the years of World War I, Vantongerloo became part of the circle of Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck, and Theo van Doesburg, who founded the magazine ‘De Stijl’ in 1917. Soon after his return to Brussels in 1918, he moved to France, where he met Max Bill, who would become a lifelong friend and the organizer of many Vantongerloo exhibitions. In 1924 Vantongerloo published his pamphlet ‘L’Art et son avenir’ and in 1931 joined the Abstraction-Création group.

Celebrating Basel Basel

Vantongerloo’s work arrived in Basel for group shows in 1937 and 1944 in ‘Konkrete Kunst’ and ‘Konstruktivisten’ at Kunsthalle Basel. In ‘Konkrete Kunst’, his metal work ‘Sculpture in Space (y=ax³-bx³+cx)’ from 1935 was included alongside work by Taeuber-Arp, Hans Arp, Max Bill, and other members of the Abstraction-Création group formed in 1931.