This publication offers an extensive overview of the work and life of Jean Tinguely, the Swiss artist who was instrumental in the development of kinetic art. While Tinguely’s mechanical metal sculptures may seem witty and playful, their charming absurdity has a dark side: he contrasts play, pleasure and irony with aggression, self-destruction and a fear of death in an engaging and compelling oeuvre. In contrast to the canonic Tinguely discourse, that largely concentrates on the playful, kinetic aspects of his machines, this study will be the first-ever to scrutinize the more topical, theoretical, interdisciplinary and critical aspects of his work. Renowned authors on the subject of 1960s art will discuss the ambiguous nature of Tinguely’s work. They will, for instance, examine the infectious cheerfulness of the machines that connects with a darker, more ambivalent view of human existence and death; the predisposition towards – and rejection of – technological advances; Tinguely’s utopian yet simultaneously dystopian vision of society; his love of art history and the museum paired with anti-institutional critique and, of course, his paradoxical relationship to materiality/production and destruction. The publication ends with a panel discussion of the meaning of Tinguely for visual art and the museum in the 21st century.