Philippe Hiquily was born in Paris in 1925. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the French Army, fighting in the campaign for Indochina in 1945. He began sculpting in the early 1950s, utilizing iron, sheet metal, brass, and aluminum. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1948-1953, working as a pedestal-maker under the sculptor Germaine Richier. Hiquily was also known to frequent the workshop of Jean Tinguely. In his final year of study, Hiquily’s Neptune won the school’s 1953 Prix de Sculpture.
He exhibited for the first time at Galerie Palmes in Paris in 1955. A second exhibition at Contemporaries in New York in 1959 afforded Hiquily the chance to interact with art world luminaries Leo Castelli, Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Johns, and Noguchi, to name a few. Success came quickly for Hiquily, whose work was purchased by both the MOMA and Guggenheim prior to 1965. After 1960, Hiquily began creating surrealist furniture, and in 1980, shifted to working in bronze.
Hiquily’s work is seen as inherently anthropomorphic, and by extension, erotic. Their universal smoothness, combined with their naturalistic form—Hiquily often utilized elements resembling antennae, horns, and legs—lends his works a sense of balance and equilibrium. Critics have drawn a linear relationship between the sensuality embedded within his sculpture and the cultural movement toward sexual liberation that began in 1968; many consider him a herald of the revolution. He is related to the Surrealist movement and noted as a progenitor of Kinetic Art. Tending toward the use of scrap metal and objects, Hiquily can also be considered one of the Nouveau Réalistes. He participated in various ‘Happenings’ and starred in the 1965 film “Paris vu par…” directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Never a Surrealist or Abstractionist by name, Hiquily instead chose to work in an aesthetic vein all his own, and as such his work is remembered for its unique elegance and sense of enchantment.
A work in three parts, Girouette Marbella serves as a dramatic exploration of the relationship between sculpture and site. The three pieces that make up the work as a whole are themselves composed of discrete kinetic elements; extending from each tripod base is a central column, around which horizontal sheets of black patinated steel rotate freely. Prompted by human touch or atmospheric conditions, these works are inherently responsive to their environment. In its playful responsiveness and ethereal whimsy, Girouette Marbella immediately recalls the mobiles of Hiquily’s contemporary Alexander Calder. Tara Hiquily, chairman of the Comité Hiquily, notes Calder’s distinct influence on the artist:
“Hiquily has always claimed his admiration for the work of Alexander Calder, whom he nevertheless met only once…The work of the latter fascinates and influences him considerably, especially through his mobiles. The movements generated by natural phenomena, such as wind or water, are at the heart of his artistic concerns.”
Hiquily created the 40-inch version of Girouette Marbella—which from French translates to “Marbella Weathervane”’—as a reduction of his eponymous monumental 1963 outdoor sculpture group installed in the city of Marbella, Spain. The original Girouette Marbella, a working weathervane whose three pieces each measure 12 meters in height, is situated outside the Hotel Don Carlos in the town of Elviria, part of the province of Málaga in the autonomous Andalusia. As the largest of the sculptor’s monumental works, it is iconic. In 2009, Hiquily created yet another monumental iteration of Girouette Marbella—this version standing at 3.5 meters in height—and installed it at Jing’an Park in Shanghai, China in preparation for Universal Exhibition of 2010. The 40-inch Girouette Marbella is part of an edition of eight copies and four artist proofs, our example being the fourth proof. Hiquily would create mobiles, many of them weathervanes, throughout his career; through these kinetic works he found and refined his personal sculptural language, based heavily upon the idea that his work both occupied and framed the space it inhabited.
Collection of the artist
Private Collection, acquired directly from the above
A. Jouffroy, J-F. Roudillon, T. Hiquily, Philippe Hiquily. Catalogue Raisonné, 1948-2011, Volume 1, Paris, 2012, No. 640 (ill. p. 414).