Regarded as one of the modern Fountains of Paris, the Stravinsky Fountain was inaugurated on 16 March 1983, at the Place Igor Stravinsky, between the equally modern and eye-catching building called Centre Pompidou and the Church of Saint-Merri, which is also very near to the most famous modern museum in Paris. It was a part of the sculptural program launched in 1978 by the City of Paris, to build seven modern fountains with sculpture in different squares of the city.
In the month of October 1981, Jacques Chirac, the mayor of Paris, announced about the plan to install a fountain near the Centre Pompidou. He also announced that, Jean Tinguly and his partner, Niki de Saint Phalle had been entrusted with the responsibility to design the fountain.
As the commission had originally been given to the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely alone, it was presumed that the work would have been entirely composed of his black-painted mechanical sculptures. But, in May 1982, when Tinguely expressed his intention to include some brightly colored works by his French partner Niki de Saint Phalle in the project, the authority became skeptical. The reason behind their doubt was not baseless, since the works of the two artists were completely different, though both of them belong to Nouveau Réalisme.
While the sculptures created by Tinguely almost look like machines, as they are made of steel and aluminium and painted black, the works of Saint Phalle, created from fiberglass and polyester; are very bright and colorfully painted. Naturally, the authority apprehended that the brightly coloured works of Niki de Saint Phalle would visually overwhelm the dark-coloured works of Tinguely. Finally, as they managed to persuade Tinguely to reduce the number of works by Niki de Saint Phalle to four or five, they also agreed to treat it as a joint venture of Tinguely and his partner.
The unusual and strikingly different Stravinsky Fountain is a shallow pool of 6,200 square feet, whimsically ornamented with sixteen works of sculpture, moving and spraying water. It is very much popular with the children, who are intrigued by the bright colours and constant movement of the almost comical figures. The sculptures represent animals like snake, fox and an elephant, while others symbolize concepts of love with huge red lips or musical symbols. Apart from that, a clown’s bowler hat and a mermaid with water squirting out of her breasts are some of the other figures of the fountain. The unconventional fountain, adorned with 16 strange sculptures is reflective of Rite of Spring and other strange compositions of Igor Stravinsky.
The fountain, as its name implies, is actually a homage to the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and it was originally named Le Sacre du Printemps or Rite of Passage, after one of the most famous compositions of Stravinsky. The modern offices of the IRCAM, a centre for musical research, are located right near the fountain.