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20|01|21 Research and dissemination of Bizkaia’s artistic heritage lead the Fine Arts Museum and the Museum of Sacred Art to team up in their first collaboration agreement


This morning, Juan Mari Aburto, mayor of Bilbao and President of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Foundation, and Joseba Segura, bishop in charge of administering the diocese of Bilbao, presented the Partnership Agreement between the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and the Museum of Sacred Art at an event attended by the directors of both museums, Miguel Zugaza and Juan Manuel González Cembellín, and Gorka Martínez, General Manager of BBK.

The agreement signed by both museums today lays the foundation for a close partnership whose main goal is to ensure greater knowledge and dissemination of Bizkaia’s artistic heritage through a programme of activities of public interest which will extend over the next five years. The main avenues of action will centre around different museographic disciplines: conservation and research, temporary exhibitions and cultural mediation.

Through an extensive, varied programme shared by both museums, the goal is to significantly enrich the scholarly knowledge of their respective collections and, by extension, some of the essential milestones in the region’s historical development.

Thus, within a far-reaching spirit of institutional collaboration, the two leading historical art museums in Bilbao pledge to identify projects and activities that can be held jointly and to secure the alliances with other museums or institutions needed to carry them out.  The Museum of Sacred Art is offering the project not only the collections held at its headquarters but also all the movable heritage that the diocese conserves in the Bizkaia region.

The project revolves around different avenues of research into major times in the history of Bilbao and Bizkaia, which will shed greater light on the region’s growth from the Modern Age until today. The first avenue will examine the rich artistic exchange with Flanders in the 16th and 17th centuries stemming from the intense trade relations between the ports of Bizkaia and the Netherlands.

The second avenue will analyse the major transformation that Bilbao and Bizkaia experienced in the 18th century, with the painter Luis Paret as a privileged witness. Another important period in history which the two institutions will jointly study is the development of religious art starting in the 19th century and extending throughout the 20th century, spanning modernity and the avant-garde.


Joint exhibition on Luis Paret

The first result of this partnership will be an exhibition dedicated to the painter Luis Paret y Alcázar (Madrid, 1746–1799) which will be held in both venues. It will open in the summer thanks to the sponsorship of BBK. Through Paret and his brief yet brilliant sojourn in Bilbao between 1779 and at least 1787, the exhibition will contextualise the modernity resulting from the influence of institutions like the Royal Basque Society of Friends of the Country, which promoted the Enlightened mindset.

With Paret’s paintings and designs as the guideposts, the exhibition will be a tour of Enlightenment Bilbao which will connect the banks of the Deusto Canal with Atxuri, the two ends of the river. In this project, each museum will present one aspect of the same exhibition on Paret and 18th-century painting, with the Fine Arts Museum focusing on the works with secular themes, such as his celebrated visits to Bilbao and his decorative and artistic projects related to the city’s unique buildings and constructions, while the Museum of Sacred Art will exhibit different works by the artist which focus on religious themes.

Along with this exhibition in both museums, an urban route will be set up that joins the main points depicted in Paret’s works. Reproductions of his paintings will allow pedestrians to situate the views of Olabeaga and El Arenal in the place closest to the site where they were presumably painted. Likewise, informational panels will identify Paret’s main works in Bilbao’s old quarter, with its fountains and the works related to the Santiago basilica. This route is planned so it can be done freely with a hand guide which will serve as a map or via a programme of guided tours.

Finally, the collaboration agreement also includes free admission to the Museum of Sacred Art for Friends of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which they can now enjoy.