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21|10|19 The Vizcaína Aguirre Foundation donates Hanging Figures by the sculptor Juan Muñoz and joins the Board of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

In memory of and tribute to its founder, the entrance lobby of the museum is being renamed the ‘Pedro de Icaza y Aguirre Hall’

The board of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum has approved adding the Vizcaína Aguirre Foundation as a new member of the board and accepted its proposal to donate the work entitled Hanging Figures (1997) by Juan Muñoz (Madrid, 1953–Ibiza, 2001), an artist who until now had not been represented in the museum's contemporary sculpture collections.

For this reason, today Unai Rementeria, the president of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia and Chair of the Board of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Foundation, welcomed the Vizcaína Aguirre Foundation and the major donation of a representative work from the career of Juan Muñoz, who is unanimously considered an essential figure in the modernisation of international sculptural practices in the last three decades of the 20th century.

Hanging Figures has been on display since October of last year as part of The Guest Work programme. Installed in the lobby of the old building, the work will now become part of the museum's collection and will thus keep up an ongoing dialogue with the architectural space thanks to the Vizcaína Aguirre Foundation's donation. In memory of and tribute to its founder, and in recognition of this exemplary act of patronage, the museum's entrance lobby is now being renamed the 'Pedro de Icaza y Aguirre Hall'.

In this way, the Vizcaína Aguirre Foundation resumes its connection with the museum, which dates back to 2001, when the Board was created. From then until 2015, it was a board member with the mission of launching the ARTEDER Database of Basque Art project, a study and documentation resource which is now a benchmark in the research and dissemination of artistic creation in the Basque Country.

This project fell within an essential part of the museum's mission, namely to study and disseminate its heritage, as well as the purposes stipulated in the bylaws of the Vizcaína Aguirre Foundation—created in 1916 as a non-profit organisation—to 'implement and sustain one or several institutions in Bizkaia which contribute to the progress of the sciences, humanities, arts or industries … through research, innovation or development, via museums, exhibitions or information centres …'.

Now the Vizcaína Aguirre Foundation is reaffirming its commitment to culture and to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum by rejoining the board and donating this important work by one of the most influential modernising forces in international contemporary sculpture.

Hanging Figures, 1997
Resin, rope and engine. 160 x 70 x 50 cm (each figure approx.)
Each figure weighs approx. 20 Kg
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Two human figures made of resin, with indistinct features and clothing, are suspended 4.5 metres from the ceiling by ropes coming out of their mouths. They convey to spectators a solitude and strangeness which reflect two of the artist's fundamental interests: representing the human figure transcendentally and altering the usual way we view sculpture. At the same time, the three-dimensionality of the work interacts intensely with the space where it is exhibited, another constant feature of the artist's work.

Following these ideas, the cooperation of the sculptor Cristina Iglesias (San Sebastián, 1956) and her in-depth understanding of Juan Muñoz's oeuvre was essential to mounting this piece. Its location in the centre of the space, the uniqueness of the architectural repertoire of the museum's old building and the natural lighting streaming into the space create a scenic atmosphere which prompts surprise and unease among spectators. Its elevated position and the slow rotation of the two pieces around their axis, which breaks with the staticity so usual in sculpture, force spectators to raise their eyes and seek a dynamic contemplation from different vantage points.

Just as in other important pieces from his career, Juan Muñoz manages to totally transform the usual way we view the sculpture, whose expressive intensity is multiplied now that it is permanently installed in the historicist space of the museum's old building.


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