The Oteiza Museum’s permanent collection has recently received an addition: a series of six original drawings (some never before exhibited) carried out by Néstor Basterretxea for the Arantzazu Crypt, as part of the renovation project established for the Basilica during the 1950s, in which Oteiza also participated. The inclusion of these six drawings, which are accompanied by photographs of the crypt and a video in which the artist explains the evolution of the works, forms part of the project “Miradas cruzadas”, which in this case is dedicated to Basterretxea but which in general aims to include works by various artists into the museum’s permanent collection, in order to establish a dialogue with Oteiza’s own work.
Basterretxea’s drawings will be exhibited for one year in the central room of the Oteiza Museum, along with the original apostles and the Pietàs sculpted by Oteiza for the outside wall of the Arantzazu Basilica. The project includes 6 original drawings, three of which were completed between 1952-53, while the other three are slightly later works, and correspond to the definitive conclusion of the crypt walls in 1983. It also includes a series of sketches, as well as pictures of the crypt as it is today and a video in which the artist himself explains the ups and downs of his work for the Arantzazu Basilica.
Basterretxea first started working in Arantzazu in 1952, when he and Pascual de Lara were selected to paint the apse of the Basilica. In the end, it was Basterretxea who was charged with the paintings for the crypt, and the artist duly started work on 18 murals. However, after one year, and with the work almost finished, the murals were eliminated after a Pontifical Commission in the Vatican ruled that his drawings, along with Oteiza’s apostles and Pietà, were inappropriate for display in the Basilica.
In his initial project, Basterretxea (Bermeo, 1924) was commissioned to represent themes such as sin, atonement, forgiveness and glory, using an expressive though figurative language that reflected the aesthetic tendencies shared by most murals of the period. Following the elimination and loss of his work, at the beginning of the 1980s the artist decided to start over again, creating 18 new murals in very different aesthetic styles. This project, which he completed in 1983, is what can be seen by visitors to the crypt today.