When the Bilbao Guggenheim was inaugurated on the banks of the Nervión 25 years ago, the councilors of Bilbao and those responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in New York in particular believed in the success of this experiment: the implementation of a supercool signature architecture by the architect star Frank Gehry in a city that at the time was considered a “rotten industrial carcass.”
The residents of the Basque capital were not at all convinced of the positive result. The decline of heavy industry had plunged the city into agony. Ironically, where ships were once loaded with steel from Bilbao’s blast furnaces, were modern classics supposed to attract visitors?
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Immediately after the inauguration began the urban transformation that would later be known as the Bilbao Effect: the public flocked to admire the spectacular structure and also returned to the following exhibitions, each time attracting big names. The northern Spanish city became a top tourist destination, jobs were created, hotels sprung up, and Bilbao’s famous gastronomy (tapas known as pintxos!) benefited from it.
Today, the Basque capital is one of the classic destinations of the easy-jet generation, with 60 percent of visitors coming from abroad. After the Corona dent, tourists are now returning, wandering around the huge steel sculptures by Richard Serra, which occupy an entire wing of the museum, and then go to the exhibits on the upper floors.
Avant-garde art and big names is the Guggenheim recipe
For the anniversary, they bet on the proven recipe: cutting-edge currents, plus a big name as a motor and this time a car show as a surprise effect. The loans come from the headquarters in New York and from other great museums with which the Guggenheim in Bilbao was associated from the beginning, such as the Royal Academy in London, the Frankfurt Schirn, the LACMA in Los Angeles or the Metropolitan Museum in New York. .
The presentation of the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris as the start of the anniversary program is a premiere, the two houses cooperating with each other for the first time. For the general exhibition “From Fauvism to Surrealism” mainly works from the Paris holdings that have a Spanish connection were brought.
The art that fits in Spain comes from Paris
It may be disappointing that only the 1905 “El loco” bronze bust was borrowed from Picasso, but you can see two unusual vertical formats by Nataliya Goncharova featuring Spaniards in traditional dress. They were created between 1920 and 1924 when the artist was designing the costumes for a Spanish production of the Ballets Russes. She never made it to a performance. The images at least remind the project.
The painter María Blanchard, on the other hand, comes from Santander, not far from Bilbao. But it was only in Paris that she developed her own cubist style.
The Musée d’Art Moderne has a whole series of her available, including the impressive Portrait of a “Spanish Woman” (ca. 1910-13), which shows a severe beauty with gaunt features, whose cheeks are the same blood red as hers. . blouse One would have liked to see more of Blanchard, but the exhibition hunts between the isms: for the Cubists and Fauvists a bit of Braque, Gris and Delaunay, for the representatives of the Ècole de Paris examples of Matisse, Chagall, Soutine and for the surrealists something of Leonor Fini, Victor Brauner and Max Ernst.
The Guggenheim prepares a brilliant Dubuffet retrospective
The great Jean Dubuffet retrospective, on loan from the Guggenheim in New York and the Venice branch, offers more detailed information: a brilliant exhibition that traces the inventor of Art brut from his late beginnings at the age of 41 to the fashionable sculptures of the Age work in the 1970s and 1980s.
The son of a family of wine merchants from Le Havre, who abandoned his art studies in Paris and returned to the family business only once, he had always been a loner. Ironically, during the occupation of Paris by the Germans, he decided to return to painting, albeit in his own way.
Dubuffet believed in the original power of art, in the vitality of the archaic. The whole sky is in the full paintings at the beginning of his career, the yellow specks on the dark surface are the stars in the sky. In other images, you can see the earth with its impenetrable structures, worms and roots. Dubuffet also placed sand and stones in concrete on his canvas, painting with impasto until the thick applied paint rises to form a crust.
Dubuffet has always been a loner, and was initially avoided by critics.
Critics immediately reacted negatively, calling his paintings ugly, grotesque, and degenerate. But Dubuffet was unfazed and continued to do his thing, working with assemblages of cut-out images, creating graphic series from the surface structure of stones, masonry, orange peel, and even a friend’s back.
Throughout his life, his art oscillated between abstraction and representation. The painter continued to reinvent himself until old age. In the 1950s he left Paris for Vence on the Côte d’Azur to find peace in big city life.
There he became a painter of interior landscapes, of obscure natural resources, and returned to Paris to be inspired again by the dynamics, the hustle and bustle of the people. Suddenly, distorted, clown-like figures appear in his pictures, disturbing and crazy types. He has taken his motto very seriously: “Art should always make you laugh and at the same time scare you, but never bore you.”
His last greeting in Bilbao: a dog painted on a candle
As a closing, the exhibition shows a widescreen painting from his “Hourloupe” series, which consists of abstract patterns in blue, red and white with a black border. They hide faces, extremities. The tangled patterns seem to be alive until Dubuffet sets them in motion. The artist further develops them into sculptures and depicts them in plays. When he died in Paris in 1985 at the age of 83, he left an enormous oeuvre, theoretical writings, an important collection of gross art with photographs of people with mental illness.
[Bilbao Guggenheim, bis 22.5./21.8.]
His latest greeting in Bilbao is a candle painted with a colorful dog: cheeky, unconventional and yet a classic. For the Guggenheim he acts as a role model.