January 19, 2021

With the A of Art and the B of Bilbao | Culture

With the A of Art and the B of Bilbao | Culture


There are police and artistic commissioners. Political commissaries and commissioners of the European Union. And then there are the literary curators. Kirmen Uribe (Ondarroa, Bizkaia, 1970) belongs, on behalf of the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao, to this last class. The writer signs the exhibition with which the institution celebrates its 110th anniversary, and which the King is inaugurating today. The exhibition offers a tour through 305 works of the permanent collection that are reordered by breaking with the chronology to embrace the faith of the dictionary: they guide the visit 31 words in Spanish, Basque, French and English, distributed in alphabetical order through the halls of the neoclassical building from the museum, built in 1945 in the central park of Doña Casilda.

The route of ABC. The alphabet of the Bilbao Museum begins, and there Uribe had it easy, for the words Art and Bilbao. A painting by Gauguin starring some washerwomen and a goat, an authentic milestone of the collection, is related in the first room to other goat motifs: the loan of a 12,000-year-old Ekain Guipuzcoa cave plate and shamanic scribbles by Joseph Beuys. In the second, the city is represented in its various forms and supports, from idealization to harsh reality, and from painting to photography.

Then come concepts like Citoyen (citizen in French), Iron (iron, in English), Kirol (sport, in Euskera) or Me. There are also rooms devoted to colors (blue and black), to the rain (with the lucid drawings of Eguillor) or to the mother (central figure in Basque society). And if you do not get the accounts of the 28 letters of the Castilian alphabet (counted the elle) and the 31 exhibition halls is because they have added three digraphs that only exist in Basque: TS (HuTS, shock), TX (ETXe, house ) and TZ (BikoiTZ, double); Three ways of saying che whose subtleties of pronunciation bring the students of the language headlong.

Second reform

The literary curator Kirmen Uribe (left) and Miguel Zugaza, director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao.
The literary curator Kirmen Uribe (left) and Miguel Zugaza, director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao.

The exhibition, which can be seen until June 2, 2019, also serves the director of the museum, Miguel Zugaza, to present a museographic reform that has kept the old building closed for three weeks. It is his second intervention. At the end of his first stage as director of the center (1996-2001), he inaugurated the extension of the architect Luis María Uriarte, which altered the physiognomy of the whole and the circulation between both buildings (the old and the new, from 1970). That coincided with the time when the people of Bilbao were assimilating the arrival of the Guggenheim to a city where, until then, there was only one museum: the Fine Arts Museum. Afterwards, Zugaza spent 15 years as director of the Prado to return home in 2017 (which is not exactly Bilbao, but the Biscayan town of Durango).

The intervention presented yesterday, in which the architect Uriarte repeats, is not as profound as that of the transition between centuries. Although it changes everything at first sight. The marqueterías have been renovated, natural light has been recovered and the black marble floors with white veins have been covered with new ones made of wood. In addition, the walls have shaken mahogany color to show a gray on the border with white and the ceilings of the upper floor rise 80 centimeters. The effect, which has cost less than a million euros, subtracts solemnity from the visit and makes it possible to contemplate what has been seen dozens of times before. The unprejudiced placement of the works, which will return to the chronological criteria next summer, does the rest. "Now they look more happy to the paintings", said yesterday Uribe before the joint contemplation of a painting of bertsolaris of Zubiaurre and one of the characteristic color explosions of Delaunay.

Withdrawn bandages after lifting, the museum will reopen its doors tomorrow, such day as October 5, 1908, in which the Board of the Board of the institution met for the first time in a Bilbao to which the prosperity of the belle époque had become one of the main artistic venues in Spain. And between acquisitions of the deputation and donations from banks, industrialists and shipping companies, a collection was formed that started in the Catalan Romanesque of the 13th century, with notable incursions into Flemish and Italian Baroque painting, and grecos, zurbaranes, goyas Y sorollas, a gauguin, a bacon, a Mary Cassatt, a broad representation of the Basque painting school of the twentieth century, as well as the entire sculptural constellation that revolves around the stars Chillida and Oteiza.

The room of the Void

That is the material with which Uribe has told, that he has developed his work with Zugaza, a curator of the museum and the couple of artists who sign the montage (Edu López and Isabel Román). The sculptors Txomin Badiola and Ángel Bados have also lent a hand, a new national prize, which has work on the route and has been commissioned to place a metaphysical Oteiza box in front of a room in the Void room. murillo The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog of high literary content in which Eliade, Calvino or Knausgard are mentioned. The volume has been financed by the BBK Foundation so that it can be distributed free of charge to those who buy a ticket to the museum during the month of October.

Uribe, that still dragged certain jet lag, arrived on Monday from New York (perhaps as a character from his novel, Bilbao-New York-Bilbao, that earned him the National Narrative in 2009). From the beginning of September, he enjoys a scholarship in the Library of the American city. Every day he goes to an office (which in 2017 occupied the American storyteller Lorrie Moore) to write his new work: a story inspired by a former librarian of the institution with a certain derivative Bilbao.

As anyone who has wanted to enclose a wealth of information in the format of the glossary will imagine, Kirmen Uribe has had to do some pirouettes than another to find certain letters. How to cover if not the Ñ? The answer is in the room Ñabar, Basque word of scarce use. It is translated here by multicolor. Of course, Uribe argued that he has not gone so far as to twist concepts: he would have loved to put a room beyond the genre under the heading Queer, but the collection, with its inevitably conservative point, did not seem to be enough. Instead, he has opted for Quiet (Quiet).

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