Oteiza and Chillida, the greatest exponents of Basque sculpture, dialogue in an exhibition through their works at the San Telmo Museum in San Sebastián-Donostia

The San Telmo Museum brings together 120 works from the 1950s and 1960s by the two Basque sculptors, many of them from Altzuza

In 1997 Jorge Oteiza and Edward screeching they reconciled with a friendly embrace after decades of enmity and rivalry. A quarter of a century later, almost two decades after the death of both Basque artists, a new hug, “the good”, through his sculptures. Total, 121 works, 67 of the first and 54 of the second, created in the 50s and 60s meet and intermingle for the second time in history in the San Telmo Museum of Donostia hand in hand with the exhibition Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida. Dialogue in the 50s and 60s, promoted by the Bancaja Foundation and that has had the complicity of both the Oteiza de Altzuza Museum and Chillida Leku.

Curated by Javier Gonzalez de Duranawhat seemed at first “a challenge fantastic” but impossible to do has come true in an exhibition that is destined to mark a before and after in the relationship between the legacy of two of the exponents international highlights of Basque culture. This has been verified this Friday in an inauguration that almost no one wanted to miss and that has had the presence of, among others, the mayor of Donostia, Eneko Goia; the Minister of Culture and Linguistic Policy of the Basque Government, Bingen Zupiria; the deputy general of Gipuzkoa, Markel Olano; the Navarre Minister of Culture, Rebeca Esnaola; and the president of the Bancaja Foundation, Rafael Alcón, the person who “had the sleep“to bring together the two Gipuzkoan sculptors in the same exhibition in Valencia.

“When I received the call, my first impression was that of scare and asked if they were aware of all the difficulties. They told me yes, but they wanted to try and they trusted that I would manage to overcome them”, explained the curator. Thus, after a few first months in which the families of both artists were reluctant, the efforts began to give their fruits and not only the two institutions legateesthe Jorge Oteiza Museum in Altzuza and Chillida Leku, answered affirmatively, as did different public and private collections such as those of the Guggenheim and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, the Artium in Vitoria, the Reina Sofía in Madrid and the Iberdrola Collection.

An unprecedented dialogue

Thanks to this, the exhibition that opened in November in Valencia and that can now be seen in Donostia until October 2 gathers 121 sculptures contemporaries of the two artists who dialogue with each other as they never did in their lifetime. “After the hug they gave each other, there was a change, but I think the good one, the real one, is the one from now on, the one that his sculptures can give each other,” says González de Durana, who accepted the challenge on two conditions: that the museums that safeguard their legacies were involved in the exhibition and that the works correspond to the same period, those of the 50s and 60s.

The San Telmo sample has exceeded the expectations initials of the curator and coming to add works that had never before been transferred. They are the cases of the wooden sculpture Laocoönby Oteiza, exhibited only in the Córdoba Chamber of Commerce since its installation in 1958, or two of the doors that Chillida created for the Sanctuary of Arantzazu and that have been expressly transferred to the museum.

These are just two examples of an exhibition that, divided through nine sections, allows the visitor to discover on their own the relationship that unites each of the pieces. In fact, except for the first two parts of the exhibition, in which the works of each artist are front to those of the other, the sculptures of Oteiza and Chillida intermingle throughout the space.

Similarities and differences

It is possible to observe the similarities of two creators who began with figurative sculptures but who had “two different attitudes”. Faced with Oteiza’s most reflective process, his most dramatic and the “quasi-scientific” titles he gave his creations, there is “the man of action” that Chillida was, with “more terrestrial” figures and with more romantic names. These two representations are illustrated at the entrance to the San Telmo exhibition, in which you can see a photograph of each one working in their workshop in very different.

These are not the only images that can be discovered in an exhibition that also includes a video homemade taped on Super 8 on the assembly of the fourteen apostles by Oteiza in Arantzazu –the exhibition includes several sketches and two of them at original scale–, several documents and personal letters from the two artists, some as curious as one that Chillida wrote recommending the Minneapolis School (USA) to accept Oteiza. This was before a disagreement that would mark the Basque cultural history of the second half of the 20th century.

“It was safety pin not bring the exhibition to the Basque Country”, stated the director of San Telmo, Susana Soto, praising the reconciliation symbolic relationship between the two artists that the exhibition represents. In this way, if that 1997 Oteiza and Chillida put an end to their encounters in physical form, now, 25 years later, it is their sculptures that make the peace.


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