Jorge Oteiza’s sculptural work for the facade of the Basilica at Arantzazu was the artist’s most important public work. It represents one of the key moments in modern art and architecture, and has become a symbol of the renewal of the religious aesthetic in the twentieth century. Fifty years after the work was completed, a new exhibition entitled “Oteiza and the Arantzazu Statues, 1950-1969” takes a fresh look at the project. The show includes over 200 pieces related to the project, many of which are being displayed to the public for the first time.
The show is being promoted by Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza, Fundación Arantzazu Gaur and the Franciscan Monks of Arantzazu. Its purpose is to examine and publicise the artistic and cultural significance of the ambitious project at the basilica of Arantzazu. The exhibition is being staged in two venues, the Oteiza Museum (19 June-15 December 2019) and Grandiaga Topagunea, the headquarters of Fundación Arantzazu Gaur (28 June -27 October of 2019). The programme, which will include a number of actions at different venues between 19 June and 27 October 2019, is being sponsored by the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa’s Department of Arts, Tourism, Youth and Sports and Kutxa Fundazioa, with collaboration from the Basque Government’s Department of Arts and Linguistic Policy, Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), Egüés Town Council, Ulma Fundazioa and Asociación Arantzazu Adiskideak.
The exhibition will analyse the various stages in the evolution of the project and will feature over two hundred sculptural studies in plaster, most of which are being displayed to the public for the first time. The development of Oteiza’s statuary provides an insight into his conceptual and symbolic quests and the evolution of his sculpture, in which he centred much of his aesthetic deliberations on the identification of space and vacuum with the spiritual. It also facilitates a better understanding of the capacity of art to generate new symbolic images and project them to society. Oteiza and the Arantzazu Statues, 1950-1969 examines the development of the sculptural project and its links to the architectural. It also considers the ban by ecclesiastical authorities on installation of the piece and shows some of the solutions proposed before the sculptor finally managed to erect the ensemble in 1969. A large number of contemporary artists—including Carlos Pascual de Lara (later replaced by Lucio Muñoz), Néstor Basterretxea, Eduardo Chillida, Xavier Álvarez de Eulate, Lucio Muñoz, Xabier Egaña and Jorge Oteiza himself—were involved in executing the Arantzazu project, based on an architectural design by Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oíza and Luis Laorga.
The exhibition will be held at the headquarters of the organising institutions. It will give viewers a chance to understand the main aspects of Oteiza’s design for the facade of the basilica and some key moments in the development of the project. The show is being curated by Elena Martín, curator at the Oteiza Museum. It has been designed by Javier Balda and includes a sound intervention especially created by artist Xabier Erkizia, based on original images shot by Oteiza of the process of installing the piece at Arantzazu. The works come from the Oteiza Museum and Arantzazu Frantziskotar Anaidia collections, the Sáenz de Oiza Archives and private lenders, with collaboration from the Elías Querejeta Film School.
To coincide with the exhibition, a magazine-type publication, Oteiza in Arantzazu is being presented, which provides a visual and educational account of the development of the project. The publication includes numerous graphics, along with texts by Elena Martín and J. P. Huércanos. A later publication, Oteiza and the Arantzazu Statues, 1950-1969, will take a complete and extensive look at Oteiza’s project, including all the different agents involved and key moments in the undertaking through to the final installation of the facade. The book is based on research by the author, Elena Martín, for her PhD thesis of the same name.
Exhibition at the Oteiza Museum
19 June- 15 December 2019
The show at the Oteiza Museum will focus on the various stages in the evolution of the artistic process and will feature a wide range of sculptural studies in plaster from the artist’s bequest at the Oteiza Museum, most of which are being displayed to the public for the first time. The exhibition analyses key features of the final design and possible solutions considered by the artist before final installation of the facade, “a receptive space, a metaphysical insulator”, as Oteiza himself called it. It analyses episodes in the process, such as the sculptural concept applied by Oteiza at Arantzazu, his approach to the mural relief, the definition of the Frieze of the Apostles and the iconography of the Virgin as well as key aspects in the definition of the spiritual space. The show concludes with a timeline, including numerous graphics.
Exhibition at Gandiaga Topagunea
28 June- 27 October 2019
The second exhibition in the project will open on 28 June at Gandiaga Topagunea, the headquarters of the Fundación Arantzazu Gaur. It will provide a chronological account of Oteiza’s intervention at Arantzazu, from the beginning of construction of the work in 1950, to the final installation in 1969.
Key features of the project will be explained in chronological order, with the aid of nearly 40 works (from the Oteiza Museum and the Monastery at the Arantzazu Sanctuary/Basilica) and numerous documents, photographs, press cuttings and audio-visual resources from the Arantzazu Sanctuary archive and the Oteiza Museum Studies Centre. The timeline will start with an analysis of the architecture and sculpture at the outset of the project, the key aspects of the revival of religious sculpture, the commission itself, the halting of the artistic work, and Oteiza’s eventual return to Arantzazu to complete the project.
On 21 September, Gandiaga Topagunea will host a commemorative act to mark the 50th anniversary of the installation of Oteiza’s work on the facade of the Basilica at Arantzazu.
A round table panel of experts will analyse the importance of Arantzazu in its historical context.
The session will conclude with the launch of the publication Oteiza and the Arantzazu Statues, 1950-1969 and a visit to the facade of the basilica at Arantzazu to analyse the key aesthetic aspects of this artistic complex.