Hauser & Wirth have announced worldwide exclusive representation of The Estate of Eduardo Chillida, Spain’s foremost sculptor of the twentieth century. Eduardo Chillida is widely recognized for his prominent monumental public sculptures displayed throughout Spain, Germany, France, and the USA, although his varied and pioneering practice also spans small-scale sculpture, plaster work, drawing, engraving, and collage. Chillida drew on his Spanish heritage and a fascination for organic form, as well as influences from European and Eastern philosophies, poetry and history, to develop an artistic voice that communicated and resonated with a continent undergoing rapid transformation. Originally a student of architecture, Chillida created art guided by its principles. His formally rigorous constructions in oxidized iron – the material a reference point to the industrial past of the Basque region – are imbued with tension and poise.
Upon Chillida’s death in 2002, the Estate was taken on by his late-widow Pilar Belzunce and Family
Chillida’s contribution towards Spain’s postwar artistic reputation and his personal legacy endure through his work and also through the Foundation which he established in 2000. In the same year, Chillida opened Chillida-Leku, an exhibition space and sculpture park converted from the historic Zabalaga farmhouse in the town of Hernani, near San Sebastian.
Since 2011, Chillida-Leku has been open to the public only by appointment, but with the support and guidance of Hauser & Wirth it will reopen in 2018 to the wider public as a vital resource for experiencing and learning about the work of Eduardo Chillida. Together with the Estate, Hauser & Wirth will develop a new and sustainable model for Chillida-Leku that is sensitive to the artist’s vision, centered around a changing program of exhibitions that position Chillida’s work alongside other major figures from the art historical canon, and contextualize his practice for future generations.
Iwan Wirth commented: ‘Chillida has always loomed large in my mind as a true genius and the guiding force in Spanish postwar art. Spain has been an area of great interest to me both personally and artistically for many years, and as a family we have spent much time there over the course of the last decades, absorbing and appreciating the local culture. This is a particularly poignant moment for Hauser & Wirth since we included Chillida in one of the very first exhibitions at the gallery 25 years ago, focused on contemporary Spanish art.
I am delighted to now have an opportunity to work closely with Chillida’s family on shaping and preserving his legacy and I look forward to furthering his reputation in the United States as well as in Europe and Asia. Chillida joins a number of important European postwar sculptors in our program, including Hans Arp, Fausto Melotti, and Henry Moore, as well as American heavyweight David Smith.
We are thrilled to support the reopening of Chillida-Leku to the wider public, so that the local and international community can once again experience this important window into the artist’s life and work. It is our hope that facilitating wider access to the museum will enhance the already rich offering of cultural destinations in the Basque region.’
Luis Chillida, son of the artist, comments on behalf of the family:
‘Since my father’s death we have worked to safeguard his legacy and have initiated a number of projects and exhibitions during that time. It became clear that the next essential step for us was to appoint a gallery to guide us in this responsibility. Hauser & Wirth was an obvious choice because of their vast experience in working with Estates. Their sensitivity towards my father’s work and family-oriented approach cemented our decision and we look forward to forthcoming collaborations.’
The gallery looks forward to a number of exhibitions and publishing projects with the Estate, and to establishing an archive devoted to the artist’s work. Hauser & Wirth will organize a Eduardo Chillida exhibition at the gallery’s 69th Street location in New York in 2018. A significant sculpture by the artist will be presented by Hauser & Wirth at Art Basel Miami Beach this year.
1948 Chillida was awarded a scholarship to attend the Cité Internationale Universitaire and traveled to Paris. It was here that he made his first works in plaster having been impressed by the ancient Greek sculpture at the Louvre. Sculptures from this period, such as ‘Torso’ (1950), show Chillida’s investigations into the human form and the natural world. 1950 also marks the artist’s first exhibition, Les mains éblouis, at Galerie Maeght and the beginning of Chillida’s lifelong relationship with friend and gallerist Aimée Maeght.
Chillida’s early interest in architecture was to have a lasting impact on his development as an artist, his understanding of spatial relationships and, in particular, his interest in making space visible through a consideration of the forms surrounding it. On his return to Spain in 1951, he began experimenting in materials that resonated with the Basque region’s industrial heritage such as iron, wood and steel. Chillida settled in Hernani with his wife Pilar and, in 1952, he set up an iron foundry, learning techniques from a local blacksmith. During this period he continued to make engravings and collages and this core practice was to continue throughout his career, allowing him to explore form and line by cutting into paper. This technique was superseded in the mid-1980s by a new development, ‘Gravitaciones’ (Gravitations), in which Chillida eliminated the adhesive from his collage, allowing the work to be suspended in space,
Chillida is highly celebrated for his approach to monumental public sculpture and his first major commission came early in his career when, in 1954, he produced the four doors for the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu. Another key public commission, a monument to Sir Alexander Flemming, was installed in a park in San Sebastián the following year.
1958 saw several key presentations for Chillida, who represented Spain at the Venice Biennale, where he received the International Grand Prize for Sculpture, the first of numerous awards and recognitions in his career. He also exhibited for the first time at the Guggenheim in the exhibition ‘Sculpture and Drawings from Seven Sculptors’. At this time, Chillida began a series of sculptures entitled Rumor de Límites (Rumour of Limits). Hewn in iron and steel, the works geometric components morphed into gravity-defying structures and are at once sculptural and architectural. These totems have their origins in drawing: alongside the Ikaraundi (Great Trembling) series of 1957, this body of work emerged from gestural, minimal, abstract drawings that Chillida produced in the mid-1950s.
The early 1960s was a period of exploration for Chillida who traveled extensively to Greece, Umbria, Tuscany, Rome and Provence. A resulting enduring interest in the interaction between light and architecture led Chillida to begin to work with alabaster, a material which appealed to the artist due to its glowing, translucent properties. The first work he produced in this material was ‘Homenaje a Kandinsky’ (Hommage to Kandinsky) (1965).
Throughout his career, Chillida created works in tribute to various figures that he respected and admired. His homages fell into three broad groups: he dedicated pieces to artists including Constantin Brâncuși, Alexander Calder and Joan Miró; musicians like Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi; and philosophers and poets such as Martin Heidegger, Emil Cioran and Pablo Neruda.
The artist’s engagement with philosophers and writers began in 1956 when Gaston Bachelard wrote an essay, Le Cosmos du Fer about Chillida’s early works in wrought iron presented at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. Later, in 1968 Chillida met the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and, the following year, collaborated with him on an illustrated version of his text, Die Kunst Und Der Raum. Both conceived of space as a material medium of relational contact and understood sculpture as a means of revealing how we belong in the world.
A consideration of site was central to Chillida’s monumental public sculptures. A landmark commission for the artist was his ‘Peine del Viento’ (Comb of the Wind) which was installed in 1976 in San Sebastián, his birthplace. The work rises above the waves at the western end of La Concha Bay and consists of three steel elements each weighing 11 tons embedded in the rocks. Chillida conceived of this work in relation to the horizon and water, two elements which he returned to throughout his career.
Of the many public commissions, other ground-breaking projects include his collaboration with architect Luis Peña Ganchegui to create the main square at Vitoria-Gasteiz, and his 1988 monument in Guernica. In 1987 the city of Barcelona commissioned ‘In Praise of Water’ for the Parque de la Creueta del Coll. Here Chillida suspended a sculpture above a pool of water, defying gravity. Even when working at monumental proportions the sculptures retain an elegance that belies their weight, such as in his public commission for the Office of the Federal Chancellor in Berlin, Germany.
The work of Eduardo Chillida has been the subject of numerous international exhibitions and retrospectives including at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1966); Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh (1979); National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1979); Guggenheim Museum (1980); Palacio de Miramar, San Sebastián (1992); Museo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1999), and Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany (1991).
Chillida was the recipient of many awards including the Grand International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale (1958), Kandinsky Prize (1960), Carnegie Prize for Sculpture (1964), Goethe Foundation’s Rembrandt Prize (1975), Andrew Mellon Prize (1978, with Willem de Kooning), Grand Award for Arts in France (1984), the Order Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaft und Kunst (1987), Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (1991), and Jack Goldhill Award from the Royal Academy of Arts in London (1996).