On the occasion of Petronor's 50th anniversary, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is now unveiling the anthological exhibition entitled After '68. Art and Artistic Practices in the Basque Country 1968–2018. This show surveys five decades of Basque art, thus renewing the museum's commitment to the contemporary art in our nearest environs.
The exhibition gets underway—two years after the Gaur group was founded—in the emblematic year of 1968, a time when a new generation of Basque artists born in the 1940s was joining the art scene and sharing it with the veteran members of the Basque School groups, whose referents were Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida. As an exceptional prologue to the exhibition, it brings together extraordinary pieces by both artists: Homage to Paul Klee (1955–1956) and Portrait of the Holy Spirit (1958–1959) by Oteiza, which belong to private collections, and Abesti gogorra IV (1964) and Silent Music I (1955) by Chillida, which are owned by the Juan March Foundation and the Kunstmuseum of Basel, respectively.
In a decade of political and social upheaval, Basque art witnessed the end of the languages stemming from Informalism and constructive abstraction, as well as the birth of the figurative proposals of Pop Art and the questioning of the idea of the artistic object posed by minimalism and conceptual art. Right at the beginning of this period, on the 28th of September 1970, the museum's modern building was opened and the Basque Fine Arts College started operating, which would later become the Fine Arts Faculty and would exert a crucial influence on the evolution of Basque art.
The survey concludes five decades later, in 2018, a period in which art made by women has become increasingly prominent, with representatives of the most recent artistic experiments by today's creators.
A sweeping selection of almost 150 works—including painting, sculpture, photography, video art and works on paper—and almost 100 artists from several generations of artists will shed light on the ways art has modernised in this particular scene at the turn of the last century, while also assessing the importance that the individual and collective careers that emerged in the region have had on both Spanish and international art.
The show's point of departure is the collection of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which is joined by important loans from private collections and fellow public institutions—such as the Museo
Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, ARTIUM and the Kunstmuseum of Basel—that have placed particular emphasis on acquiring contemporary Basque art. Important pieces by María Luisa Fernández, Txuspo Poyo, Edu López and Jon Mikel Euba come from Artium. In addition, works by Pedro Osés, Juan José Aquerreta, Alberto Rementería, Luis Candaudap and Azucena Vieites come from Basque savings banks.
Outside the Basque Country, numerous institutions have collected Basque art and made significant contributions to the exhibition. The "La Caixa" Foundation has lent works by Ángel Bados, Txomin Badiola, Cristina Iglesias, Peio Irazu and Ana Laura Aláez. Likewise, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MCNARS), the Museu Nacional d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC) have lent pieces by Miguel Ángel Gaüeca, Sergio Prego, Asier Mendizabal, Ibon Aranberri, Iñaki Garmedia and Ixone Xadaba.
This corpus of art is joined by the important book and document collection from the museum's library, which plays a major role in documentation and research via Arteder, the largest database on Basque art and artists in our country. This section not only includes loans from private collections—such as the archives of the historian and art critic Xabier Sáenz de Gorbea and the gallery owner Sol Panera—but also loans from public institutions, such as the Jorge Oteiza Foundation Museum, the Sancho el Sabio Foundation and Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea.
Through a chronological discourse in which the artists and their works are interspersed with documentary and archival materials -books, brochures, exhibition cards, magazines, posters, written texts or audiovisual materials- After '68. Art and artistic practices in the Basque Country 1968-2018 occupies all the exhibition space in the museum's modern building (BBK gallery and galleries 32 and 33), a space opened in 1970 which is itself a fundamental part of the institutional account of art during this period.
The exhibition, which is curated in-house by Miriam Alzuri, Begoña González and Miguel Zugaza, is accompanied by a catalogue with texts by experts who contribute new information to the study of the artistic expressions which have emerged in the Basque Country from 1968 until today. Francisco Javier San Martín, Fernando Golvano, Peio Aguirre and Miren Jaio have made a decade-by-decade survey of the artistic practices that run through this exhibition. All four texts can be downloaded free of charge in Basque, Spanish and English in the Reading Room of the museum's website. Likewise, Mikel Onandia has devised an exhaustive timeline which contains the events that defined the artistic and cultural context during this period.