SAN SEBASTIÁN.- Chillida Leku
will open its doors to the public on Wednesday 17th April, inviting audiences to experience this important cultural site in the Basque Country. The museum, comprising a sculpture park and exhibition space inside a converted sixteenth century farmhouse, was founded by Eduardo Chillida in 2000. It has been open by appointment only since 2011.
The inaugural exhibition, entitled Eduardo Chillida. Echoes, features works from throughout Chillidas career dating from the late 1940s through to 2000. Curated by the sculptors son Ignacio Chillida and the museums research team, the exhibition provides insights into the artists creative development, his use of materials and the evolution of his ideas throughout his lifetime. Works in iron, corten steel, granite, plaster and paper will be exhibited alongside the artists renowned series, such as Gravitaciones (sculptures made from paper highlighting negative space) and Lurras (works made from chamotte clay).
The upper galleries feature a presentation dedicated to the artists public sculptures which can be found in over 40 cities around the world. The special focus of this section of the exhibition is the monumental sculpture Peine del viento XV (The Comb of the Wind XV) (1977) in San Sebastián, a commission which held deep personal significance for Chillida and was recently granted protected status as a monument of cultural importance by the Basque Government.
The exhibition brings together an important body of work belonging to the Estate of Eduardo Chillida in addition to rarely exhibited sculptures on loan from museums, institutions and private collections. Works include landmark iron sculptures Deseoso (Wishful) (1954), from the Fundación La Caixa, and Del plano oscuro (Obscure Plane) (1956), from the Fundación ICO deposit Museo Reina Sofia. Other key loans from private collections include Hierros de temblor (Trembling Irons) (1957); Yunque de sueños VII (Anvil of Dreams VII) (1959) and Buscando la luz III (Searching for Light III) (1997).
To contextualise the works, the exhibition includes archive material such as photographs, original manuscripts, correspondence and catalogues of his early exhibitions, which belong to the Eduardo Chillida archive, permanently housed at the museum.
The Estate of Eduardo Chillida is ensuring that the respectful restoration of the historic site is in keeping with the artists vision for the museum. The appearance and structure of the caserío Zabalaga, dating from the sixteenth century, will remain as conceived by Chillida, and is being equipped with museum standard lighting, improved insulation, and better access to meet the needs of visitors with reduced mobility.
A new initiative at Chillida Leku is the creation of a sustainable café and kitchen called Lurra, housed in the pavilion originally designed by the architect Joaquín Montero. Headed up by the chef Fede Pacha, Lurra is a collaboration between the museum and the Basque organisation Orona Fundazioa. The café has been developed according to a shared philosophy called Diámetro 200 which is grounded in the use of local seasonal produce and a respect for the environment.
In addition to the new café, the pavilion also houses a museum shop, which has been renovated and will stock a comprehensive selection of art publications with a strong focus on titles on Eduardo Chillida and new editorial scholarship which is underway.
The renovation works are being carried out under the supervision of the Paris-based Argentinean architect Luis Laplace. Luis Laplace is a renowned architect and interior designer who specialises in art and culture related projects and takes a sensitive approach to the conservation of existing structures. Laplace is working in close collaboration with local architect Jon Essery Chillida, grandson of the sculptor.
The Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf, pioneer of the New Perennial movement, is also a collaborator and is introducing subtle new landscaping elements. His garden and landscape designs which include the Lurie Garden in Chicago and the High Line in New York are predicated on ecological principles.
Protected status for The Comb of the Wind XV
In parallel to the progress that will mark this new era for Chillida Leku, on 15th February 2019, Peine del viento XV (The Comb of the Wind XV) was granted protected status as a monument of cultural importance by the Basque Government. This is an important first step prior to requesting World Heritage Site status by UNESCO.
This highly celebrated group of sculptures, created by Chillida in 1977 for the city of San Sebastián, can be visited a short drive from the museum at the end of the Ondarreta Beach and has become a symbol of the Basque city. As a result of its new status, this group of sculptures will now receive special protection and be preserved in perpetuity.
Chillida Leku is located on the outskirts of Hernani near San Sebastián and comprises a sculpture park and an exhibition space inside the converted caserío Zabalaga, a traditional Basque country house dating from the sixteenth century. The house and its adjoining land were purchased in the 1980s by Eduardo Chillida and his wife Pilar Belzunce, who dedicated the next fifteen years to sensitively restoring it. The project was carried out in close collaboration with the Basque architect Joaquín Montero, who helped them to realise their personal vision for the exhibition space. At Chillida Leku the artist created a place (Leku translates as place in the Basque language) where future generations could experience his work as he intended, and in an unparalleled setting.
Chillidas choice of site for the museum reflects his lifelong deep connection to the community, landscape and architecture of Basque Country. The historic country house is surrounded by a sculpture park of 11 hectares (110,000 sq m) featuring around 40 of the artists works: for example the monumental sculptures Buscando la luz I (Searching for Light) (1997) and Lotura XXXII (Union XXXII) (1998) made from corten steel, a material which resonates with the industrial past of the region.