Last December, the Board of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum approved the addition to the collection of an extensive set of works donated during the second half of the year which are now being presented to the public. In July, dovetailing with the museums reopening, we had the chance to share the first set of works received as donations in 2020.
Today we are reporting on a second set of donations received by the museum in the second half of 2020. The works are grouped according to their provenance, but one of the main source of new works is those joining the collection thanks to the contributions made by the Friends of the Museum, a group that has grown by 10% in this past year.
One of the most important contributions from the friends, and unquestionably one of the most important acquisitions of the year, is the large painting by the French painter and illustrator Gustave Doré (Strasbourg, France, 1832Paris, 1883) entitled The Vagabonds. Painted after one of his journeys to Spain in 1863, the work reflects the artists particular interest in bohemians or people excluded from society, such as beggars or stall workers at fairs, which is why it is being presented to the public for the first time in gallery O (Otredad/Otherness) in the museums alphabet. This important painting highlights the bonds between European and Spanish painting and the Spanish School, the modern breeding ground of key artists in our collection such as Ignacio Zuloaga, Juan de Echevarría and José Gutiérrez Solana.
Furthermore, after last years retrospective devoted to Vicente Ameztoy (San Sebastián, 19462001), the museum had the chance to round out the extraordinary presence of his work in its collection by acquiring one of his original portraits painted on mirror, Untitled from 1970, which is show in gallery E (Espejo/Mirror).
Finally, the friends of the museum have also contributed to the acquisition programme of contemporary artists with Variation sur la même taime (1992) by Itziar Okariz (San Sebastián, 1965), from one of the artists earliest photograph series. This work is being presented in gallery Y (Yo/I).
Along with this early work by Itziar Okariz, this year the museum has also used the funds provided by the founding institutions to acquire a major set of works by this creator, who has earned a place as one of the major figures on Spains contemporary art scene. The acquisition includes the video works Climbing Buildings. Abando RENFE, Plaza Circular, Bilbao (2003) and The Statues (Jorge Oteiza, "My Wife") (2018), which provide an overview of Okarizs career from the early 1990s until today and are completed with the artists donation of the sound work Applause (2011), which is in gallery TX (Etxe/House).
Another prominent addition within the acquisition programme of contemporary artists is the extraordinary installation Head-Spiral-Hole-Fist-Sperm-Nude (2008) by Ana Laura Aláez (Bilbao, 1964). Comprised of six dark sculptural forms hanging on the wall, it is one of the artists most ambitious works and was created for her major solo exhibition Sculpture Pavilion held at MUSAC in León. The piece will soon participate in Aláezs retrospective All Concerts, All Night, All Empty organised by Azkuna Zentroa and will be added the museums holdings along with a previous work, Butterflies (2004), a video which is now being exhibited on its own as the artists donation in gallery H (Heads & Hands).
José Ramón Amondarain (San Sebastián, 1964) is from the same generation as the previous artists. He tends to reflect on the nature of painting and its limitations as an artistic practice bound to two dimensions. Along with Sípidos (2001), a fundamental work in his creative career, the installation Blind Spot (2007) is now joining the museums collection as a donation from the artist. Both works are going to be shown in the retrospective Shaking up Images which Sala Kubo Kutxa in San Sebastián is devoting to the painter this spring.
Likewise, the presence of Ibon Aranberri (ItziarDeba, Gipuzkoa, 1969) in the museums collection is now complemented with Untitled (Barrutik kanpora). This is a video recorded in 2019 inside Iritegi cave (Oñati) before he dismantled the metal structure which he had used to close up the cave in 2003, an action which resulted in the sculpture Zulo beltzen geometría, which recently joined the museum. The video, which was donated by the artist, is being projected in the vestibule on the first floor of the museums old building as a counterpoint to the presence of his sculpture in the modern hall.
Finally, the 2020 contemporary art acquisition programme also includes the sculpture sarà-sarà by Josu Bilbao (Bermeo, 1978), which is currently on display in gallery 32. It was made during the lockdown and was unveiled for the first time at the Centro Párraga in Murcia several months ago. The artist has also donated a folder containing different sketches and documents related to the assembly of the work esàk-esà, which was installed in the museums modern hall in 2018 on the occasion of the exhibition After 68.
Finally, one of the most notable donations received in 2020 is the one made in memory of Jorge de Barandiarán, the museums director between 1983 and 1996 who recently passed away. It includes two albums of artistic mementos which belonged to the mythical Galería Lúzaro in Bilbao, an exhibition space that Barandiarán ran along with Asís Aznar in conjunction with Carmen López-Niclós, which played a crucial role in local artistic life and in the development of the fine arts in the Basque Country in the 1970s.
Sin título (1973)
Donated by the heirs of Jorge de Barandiarán
José María Yturralde
Sin título (c. 1975-1976)
Donated by the heirs of Jorge de Barandiarán
The donation is comprised of 67 originals by the leading artists in the Lúzaro exhibition programme, which focused on avant-garde art, including both prominent Spanish artists like Rafael Canogar, Luis Feito, Lucio Muñoz, José María Yturralde and Francisco Peinado, and especially Basque artists like Marta Cárdenas, Juan Luis Goenaga, Andrés Nagel, Carmelo Ortiz de Elguea, Remigio Mendiburu and Juan Carlos Eguillor (San Sebastián, 1947Madrid, 2011). In fact, the museum has also received from a private collection a poster that Eguillor made in 1978 to commemorate Bilbaos first Aste Nagusia (Great Week) under democracy.
The taste for everything Spanish, or espagnolade, became fashionable throughout France in the 1860s. Thus, many artists travelled to Spain in the 19th century to see its landscapes, archetypes and customs firsthand, later incorporating them into their works. They include the authors Prosper Mérimée, Théophile Gautier and Alexandre Dumas and the painters Eugène Delacroix, David Roberts, Edouard Manet and Gustave Doré.
Dorés works on Spanish themes, like The Vagabonds, are characterised by featuring figures from the lower class. Executed with a strong sense of Costumbrism, with imprecise drawing and a vibrant yet not very colourful palette, they are not depicted in a picturesque way but instead offer an anthropological interpretation of the more disadvantaged classes, a vision that Doré shared with the French realist painters such as Manet and Courbet.
After being part of US and European collections, the work is now bringing one of the most prominent 19th-century artists into the museums collection, enriching this centurys representation by complementing the realism of other painters like Théodule-Armand Ribot, while also connecting to the European naturalist trend from the early 20th century, embodied by Ignacio Zuloaga.
We know of only three works in oil paint on mirror that Ameztoy made in 1970 and 1973 in the early stages of his artistic career, and they are therefore unique in his oeuvre and in Basque art from that time. All three were presented in public in the painters first solo exhibition held in Madrid in 1971.
At the time, the art critic José Ayllón wrote about these pieces: "facing the mirror, which merely reflects what is before it, Ameztoy suggests the polar opposite. Viewing themselves, the spectators have become the occupants of an unoccupied space, or vice-versa " Javier Viar has related the mirror motif to the theme of the doppelganger, which fascinated Ameztoy throughout his career. The artist included an inscription on the painting which reinforces the idea of visual play: "Esto ez da espejua" (This isnt a mirror).
A colleague of the generation of Basque artists that included Jon Mikel Euba, Azucena Vieites and Gema Intxausti, Itziar Okariz joined the art scene in the early 1990s. Even though she was educated in the speciality of sculpture at the Fine Arts Faculty of Bilbao, early on she chose performance as a means of expression and inquiry, and today she is one of the artists with the most international renown in this medium. In 2019, she and the sculptor Sergio Prego were chosen to represent Spain in the 58th Venice Biennale.
The three photographs in Variation sur la même taime (1992) are part of a more extensive series in which Okariz uses her own body as an artistic material and space of "dissidence" in order to reflect on how sexual and gender identity, as well as political and cultural identity, are created, a reflection that this and other early works of hers were pioneers in examining in Spain. The title of the work comes from a celebrated album by the French chanteuse Vanessa Paradis that came out in 1990. For this work, Okariz shaved her head in the shape of a map of the world and used a radical, subversive gesture to alter her body image.
This piece is the outcome of Okarizs performance at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 2007, where she was invited to intervene before an invited audience, and it offers an audio recordingon a vinyl recordof the applause of the audience that was deliberately gathered in the museums atrium, slow at first, then constant. Until then, this artists actions had always taken place before audiences that had not been invited but had gathered fortuitously, and this is why Okariz views this as a seminal work within her oeuvre. The outcome of recording that action is a sound installation that requires the publics participation through their decision whether or not to push the start button on the record player where the recording of the applause is played.
In 2003, Ibon Aranberri intervened in the prehistoric cave of Iritegi (Oñati, Gipuzkoa) by closing off its mouth with a metal structure. Two decades later, he considered the action finished and dismantled the enclosure to return the cave to its original state. Zulo beltzen geometria [Geometry of Black Holes] (2019), a sculpture acquired by the museum in December 2019, is the outcome of a new intervention in which the steel modules now comprise a freestanding work.
The donated video is based on the recording that the artist made inside the cave in 2019, months before the piece was dismantled. The recording had no artistic pretentions, but recently Aranberri became aware of its poetic, evocative potential. Thus, in 2019, it was shown in Stuttgart in the collective show Sleeping with a Vengeance, Dreaming of a Life, although not as a work of art per se. The recording donated to the museum is the outcome of a new editing of the original video made in November 2020.
Butterflies (Mariposas) fuButterflies was the first collaboration between Ana Laura Aláez and the musician Daniel Holc (Ascii.disko). In the video, a love song written for her by Holc with the refrain "what will happen when we no longer feel butterflies in our stomach?" plays in the background. Aláez, who is naked and bereft of any accessories, sings the song far from the camera so quietly her voice can barely be heard, in a scene that suggests intimacy and defencelessness.
The donation of this audiovisual reflects Aláezs wish for the sculpture group Head-Spiral-Hole-Fist-Sperm-Nude (2008), recently acquired by the museum, to be displayed either independently or as part of an installation with Butterflies: Two apparently opposite works, one about violence and the other vulnerability, which show Aláezs formidable sculptural and spatial talent.
Josu Bilbaos artistic practice takes shape through observation and an almost constant dialogue with materialsall of them humbleand the space where he makes his sculptural interventions. One good example of his artwork is the piece acquired by the museum entitled sarà-sarà, which is comprised of eight pairs of metal easels on which a series of metal bars of differing sizes are resting, apparently trivial, everyday objects which show the spectator the marks left on them by time and use. In his work, the artist tends to add on experiences and possible ways of being in space and developing in different forms during the very installation and set-up process. He envisions his creations not as closed projects but as inquiries that are always open, the sites of "relations and openings" that occasionally provide access "to the merger between the worlds of thinking-speech and matter-energy".
This sculpture, created for his solo exhibition at the Centro Párraga in Murcia in 2020, is a large work that takes up space resoundingly and serves as a turning point in Bilbaos work to date as his first fully autonomous piece as a sculptural "object" that could exist beyond the timeframe of a given site-specific exhibition or intervention.
The work is the phonetic transcription of a popular saying in Basque which could be translated as "no, no", and it was the title that Josu Bilbao chose for three complex sculptural works installed in the spaces of Galería etHALL in Barcelona, the Centro Botín in Santander and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum (within the exhibition After 68. Art and Artistic Practices in the Basque Country 19682018). The folder donated to the museum contains five sketches of the intervention he made at the museum. They are images taken from direct scans of tiny remnants of the materials used in this sculpture and his own hands. To this artist, delicate works on paper serve as "sketches" of the sculpture, as images that "somehow sketch the spatiality of esàk-esà".
The multifaceted illustrator Juan Carlos Eguillor made this poster for Bilbaos first festivals in August 1978. It captures the climate of freedom which the city was experiencing with the advent of democracy and the festive atmosphere at the time. The cabezudos (big heads), couples dancing and especially the txistulari (flautist) capture the heavy symbolic value of this work, one of the icons of Bilbaos Aste Nagusia (Great Week). The donation of this poster brilliantly complements the representation of Eguillors work in the museums collection.