"I here, in my Basque Country, I feel in my place, like a tree that is appropriate to its territory, on its land but with open arms to everyone," he said. Eduardo Chillida (San Sebastián, 1924-2002), one of the greatest figures of 20th century sculpture; also a poet and philosopher able to transform the deepest thoughts into the simplest forms. One of his last dreams, with which he wanted to close his life cycle and to which he devoted fifteen years of his life was the creation of a museum of outdoor sculptures where the public could relate to his work among the green meadows of Zabalaga, surrounded of beech, oak and poplar.
The Chillida-Leku (the place of Chillida) opened in Hernani (Gipuzkoa) in 2000, but ten years later it was forced to close its doors due to economic infeasibility. "He belonged to this place and I am sure he would be happy to see how he is reborn and adapted to the 21st century", says his son Luis Chillidawhile walking among the monumental sculptures planted around the old 16th century farmhouse that from the 17th reopens its doors to the public.
Luis Chillida, who directed the center in its first stage, does not want to reopen wounds and says that the bitter disputes that in the past confronted the family with the Basque institutions are simply that, a thing of the past. Now it's party time. The agreement reached at the end of 2017 with the Swiss Hauser & Wirth, one of the most powerful and influential galleries in the world, "is the best thing that could have happened to us," he says.
The alliance has not only made possible the reopening of the space, but also makes the gallery owners the global representatives of the Chillida Succession, which will undoubtedly mean "a new commercial and prestige impulse" to the artist's work. "Seen with perspective - it reflects -, it was fortunate that we did not reach an institutional agreement with the Basque administrations, because thanks to it, This new starting point is much more exciting. It seems destiny, my father believed a lot in destiny. He always worked on the value of things. He said that the value was one and the price the others ".
It was fortunate that we did not reach an institutional agreement, because this new starting point is much more exciting "
In 2016, the Chillida family was about to close an agreement whereby the Diputación de Gipuzkoa and the Basque Government each contributed 50 million euros in exchange for the collection and management of the museum, which was frustrated by political disagreements. Luis Chillida, president of the Eduardo Chillida and Pilar Belzunce Foundation, refuses to disclose the terms of the agreement with Hauser & Wirth, "because in the end it is a deal between private individuals with a common goal. We do not have to give explanations. "
In any case, he considers, his entrance in the management of the Chillida-Leku will contribute the wisdom and professionalism that the family did not have. "We did not know how to move in the world of museums." In the ten years that it was fully operational, the museum hosted more than 800,000 visitors, but also a deficit of two million euros.
Chillida-Leku never closed completely. "During this time people have been able to continue coming through concerted visits, but the situation was becoming more difficult. We had to start selling work to be able to maintain it. The museum was killing the museum itself, "admits the former director of the center, which has stepped aside and cedes the position to the Barcelonian Mireia Massagué, who until a year ago directed the Gaudí Exhibition Center in Barcelona. "We are at the moment of reopening and everything is still to be done," says Massagué, for whom "we are now at a very different time. It exists in the north a very strong cultural axis, with the Guggengheim, the renovated Fine Arts, the opening of the Botín Center ... that is generated a new tourism. We come to add, because art can become a new attraction as has traditionally been gastronomy. "
Chillida-Leku never closed completely. People have been able to keep coming through concerted visits, but it was more difficult
Chillida's work is widely recognized in Europe, especially Germany, also in Japan, "but there is a long way to go in the United States and other parts of Asia", third Luis Chillida. That's where Hauser & Wirth, with venues in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York or Zurich, they can play their main cards. "Artists to be known move their works, but instead, what did my father do? A museum with a hundred works so that everyone could enjoy them, because he thought that the work that belongs only to one does not belong to anyone. I wanted people to walk among his sculptures like in a forest. "
Chillida-Leku is a magical place fifteen minutes by car from San Sebastian. It reopens after a renovation of the Argentine architect Luis Laplace with the help of Jon Esery Chillida, grandson of the sculptor, who have incorporated two pavilions for shop and a cafeteria-restaurant. And the Dutch landscape painter Piet Oudolf has been involved in the improvement of access.
The title of his inaugural exhibition is
Eduardo Chillida. Ecos, an anthology of the artist's work
(43 works abroad and a fifty in the village) that gathers from its first casts or the first abstract iron, in the fifties, when it decided to leave Paris to follow the tradition of the Basque smiths. Curated by his son Ignacio, his Gravitaciones (reliefs on paper) and his Lurras (sculptures with chamotte stone) are also present, with special guests who had never been to his museum, as
Praise to iron III
, belonging to the BBVA collection,
, of the Fundació La Caixa or From the dark plane, coming from Reina Sofía.
Reopens after a renewal of Argentine architect Luis Laplace with the help of the grandson of Chillida, who have incorporated two pavilions for store and a cafeteria