In its 112 years of history, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum has always kept up the main hallmarks of its identity, including its mission to keep enriching its collection, its commitment to contemporary art and the artistic community, and its proven support of collectors, artists and institutions. These efforts are reflected in many ways, including notable donations of works of art.
In 2019, the museum has been able to resume its acquisition programme thanks to a budget of 300,000 euros provided by the three founding institutions: the Basque government, the Regional Government of Bizkaia and the Bilbao Town Hall. Likewise, the donations received in the past two years are worth more than 3,000,000 euros.
Indeed, numerous paintings, sculptures, works on paper and documents have been acquired and donated in the past two years. Some have already been displayed, while others are now being exhibited for the first time in a selection which is part of the collection's exhibition discourse within its current format, ABC. The Alphabet of the Bilbao Museum.
The most notable works already unveiled are the 2018 donations of the sculpture Bilbao (1983) by Richard Serra in memory of Martín García-Urtiaga and Mercedes Torrontegui by their grandchildren, and the Luis Paretpainting The Triumph of Love over War, donated by Alicia Koplowitz Romero de Juseu. Also by Paret, View of Bermeo was acquired in 2017 thanks to the contribution of the Friends of the Museum and the sponsorship of BBK, thus rekindling the involvement of civil society and numerous institutions and entities in the growth of the museum's collections.
The painter Eduardo Arroyo's connection to the museum deserves mention of its own. In 2017, the artist donated ten works on paper and two sculptures, The Female Tyrant and Josephine Baker (both from 2016), which are displayed in gallery C (citizen). Shortly before his death in 2018, he donated another set of 115 prints. Donations by artists with special ties to the museum also include the one by Mari Puri Herrero, who donated 12 engraving plates and a print in 2018.
Within contemporary art as well, the work Untitled (2011), a plaster and wood piece acquired from Ángel Bados, winner of the National Fine Arts Award in 2018, is on display in gallery Q (quiet) on the tour.
And finally comes the acquisition of Villager from Bakio (1888), an emblematic painting in the career of Adolfo Guiard, which was part of The Guest Work programme in 2016.
The acquired and donated works being presented for the first time include those that are part of the EMAK Programme, the museum's initiative that aims to bring visibility to the works of female artists. With this purpose in mind, pieces have been acquired by Isabel Baquedano, specifically two paintings from the early 1970s which will be on display starting 30 October in the major retrospective that the museum is organising on this painter, along with Elena Mendizabal's Hair Mane (1986), which was displayed in the show entitled After '68. Art and Artistic Practices in the Basque Country 19682018 (20182019), as well as the works mentioned below, by Miren Arenzana, Nadia Barkate, Gema Intxausti, María Luisa Fernández and Idoia Montón.
Other acquisitions that boost the presence of Basque art in the collection are works by José Ramón Anda and Pablo Milicua. Particularly worth noting is the recent purchase of two photomontages and 16 original photographs by Nicolás de Lekuona, which also led to the donation of a painting and an important set of personal effects belonging to the artist.
Two sculptures by Remigio Mendiburu and a terracotta portrait of the young Picasso made by Pablo Gargallo have been donated by Basque collectors.
Finally, the portrait of Mallarmé that Paul Gauguin etched in 1891 is also on display.