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PRESENT DAY

16|07|21 Signing of new agreement with the Gondra Barandiarán Foundation

The Gondra Barandiarán Foundation and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum reaffirm their commitment through a new collaboration agreement signed today by Juan Mari Aburto, mayor of Bilbao and chairman of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Foundation, and Guillermo Barandiarán, president of the Gondra Barandiarán Foundation and member of the museum's Board of Trustees.

The Gondra Barandiarán Foundation and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum share, among their respective founding objectives, the promotion and development of cultural and educational activities. With this sound cornerstone, since 2014, the Foundation has funded a programme of training scholarships that has had seven editions and has already benefitted fifty young people who have been able to develop their knowledge in the museum before entering the labour market. The onboarding of the scholarship holders selected in the eighth edition, who will arrive at the museum in October, is already underway.

The relationship between both institutions, which dates back to 2014, took a step further in its consolidation when, in 2017, the two foundations renewed their agreement and strengthened their institutional collaboration through the announcement of the incorporation of Gondra Barandiarán into the Museum’s Board and the organisation of the first summer course.

The signing, today, of a fresh renewal of this relationship clearly evidences the extraordinary state of health that it enjoys. A close, enriching collaboration that has lasted for more than seven years and fulfils to a tee the mission of both the foundations pursuant to the agreement, generating significant social value through training and education. Ensuring the future of a free, cohesive society entails working on programmes such as those included in this important collaboration. If both institutions have a well-defined mission, it is to bring social value.

And that is the vocation of a commitment that is embodied, on the one hand, in a scholarship programme that invests in the training and professional development of individuals and encourages their critical spirit, and, on the other, since 2017, in a programme of summer courses specialising in museography and with the participation of renowned international experts. In this respect, Gabriele Finaldi, Carmen Giménez, Taco Dibbits, Norman Foster, Miren Arzalluz and Hans Ulrich Obrist, to name but a few, have taken part in both the editions held so far: ‘Museographies. Ways of seeing art’ (2018) and ‘Glocal. Caring for art today, here and now’ (2019). Due to the health crisis, in 2020 it was not possible to stage what would have been the third summer course. This year, still marked by the restrictions stemming from the pandemic, the Foundation has promoted, within the framework of the exhibition on the painter Luis Paret, the organisation of the ‘Luis Paret in Bilbao’ art days. They were held in the museum's auditorium on July 14, 15 and 16 with the aim of furthering knowledge of the historic stay in the city of one of the best painters of the 18th century.

As regards the scholarship programme, the museum has recently published the resolution of the award of seven new scholarships whose recipients will begin their training on October 1. The average number of applications received in the annual calls is approximately 250, with a high female participation, around 80%, and which is concentrated, over 90%, in national territory, with the Basque Country being the one with the greatest presence. Most of the applications come from Art History and Fine Arts students.

Furthermore, the high degree of satisfaction of the scholarship holders, together with the significant positive impact that their spell in the programme has on their personal and professional careers, is the most consistent highlight evidenced in the balance of the last seven editions held.

In a complex time marked by the health crisis, the mission shared by the Gondra Barandiarán Foundation and the museum—to contribute to society through the training of future professionals—has become even more important, if possible, due to the enormous value and effort involved in giving continuity to an activity that adds value to and strengthens society.

The signing now of this new agreement ratifies the collaboration between the Gondra Barandiarán Foundation and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and establishes the courses of joint action of both institutions for the 2021–2024 period.

Luis Paret. The extraordinary loan of two important paintings

On the occasion of the exhibition Luis Paret in Bilbao. Sacred and profane art, sponsored by BBK and organised jointly by the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and the Sacred Art Museum, two important works painted by the Madrid artist during his stay in Bilbao are presented in an exceptional way. The first of them, View of El Arenal in Bilbao, comes from the National Gallery in London, and this is a great opportunity to see it together with another panoramic view of the same area painted a year earlier, which has been in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum collection since 1996.

Worthy of note in the View of El Arenal in Bilbao, from London, are the artist's chromatic skills, displaying a superb symphonic use of blue. The meticulous way in which the light is captured, paying special attention to the effects generated by the evening glow, also stands out. These aspects bring the work closer to the 18th-century nostalgic vision of nature and the concept of the sublime. Furthermore, Paret shows in the details the romantic spirit typical of the travelling painter, attentive to everyday behaviours and scenes, but never falling into insignificant picturesqueness. Although these characteristics somewhat distance him from the spirit in the midst of the rococo, in this type of emblematic work (a port view), Paret still portrays characters, usually young fishermen and peasants, whose facial features and behaviours have their precedent in the villagers and shepherds of François Boucher (1703–1770) or Antoine Watteau (1684–1721).

This depiction of enormous artistic value is also very relevant from a historical perspective since, in it, Paret captured a trustworthy view, with great topographic accuracy, of El Arenal in Bilbao, at that time a key space for commerce and socialisation. The thickly wooded promenade leads to what was then the town centre, with the houses of Arenal street, the old Quintana Palace and, in the background, the ruins of the convent of San Agustín, located where the City Hall currently stands. The detailed description of the area makes the work a unique testimony, since there are no examples prior to Paret of views with this quality and modernity. This distinctive feature is also rounded off with the presence of its busy protagonists—the male and, especially, female inhabitants of Bilbao, of whom there are hardly any everyday pictures—immersed either in tasks typical of port or commercial business or, on the contrary, in idle, contemplative demeanours.

As can be seen in the exhibition, Paret completed all of his Bilbao works in a formidable manner, always adding an avant-garde touch. Modernity is one of the hallmarks of his art and is especially appreciated in his most private paintings, such as in María de las Nieves Micaela Fourdinier, the painter's wife, on loan from the Prado Museum, or in its pair—the mount for both comes from the same sheet of copper—and with which it is now reunited for the first time since both were painted by Paret in 1783: the portrait of his daughters María Soledad and Luisa María, born in the city. The girls, aged four and two, respectively, appear surrounded by vegetation, with the base of a classical column at the top. The eldest is holding a tambourine, while the youngest is playing with a puppy. Paret uses the same trompe l'oeil window that he used in his wife's portrait to form a rich frame of flowers and draperies that allows him to display his technical virtuosity based on a combination of textures and glistening lustres. In short, the works that Paret painted in Bilbao are faithful exponents of the rococo style; a type of carefree painting that sought, to a large extent, an excuse to show the joy of living.