In this article, Guggenheim Bilbao, the collection, I will take a tour of some of the most relevant international artists of the contemporary art, that conform the heritage of the museum.
As a museum of contemporary art, the art creation starts from the second half of the 20th century.
These are works of great relevance and international references of the artistic tendencies of the times in which they were created.
With the collection of Guggenheim Bilbao you will have the unique opportunity to admire the unquestionable greatness of local sculptors such as Oteiza or Chillida, to a Mariyn Monroe reflected in the work of Andy Warhol and followed by Richard Serra and his colossal sculptures that form “The Matter of Time”.
In addition to the acquisitions made by the Museum of Bilbao, financed by the Basque institutions, the Guggenheim Bilbao, we must consider the great importance of being able to access the works that make up the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation and those of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
Let’s go on a tour of the artists and the most outstanding works of the collection of Guggenheim Bilbao.
If you wish to view the works of the above-mentioned artists, the section dedicated to each of them will include a link to the section of the museum’s official website where these images appear.
Dvinsk; Russia (now Latvia) 1903 – New York 1970
Guggenheim Bilbao acquired the work “Untitled” (1952-1953). Link to image.
Marcus RothKowitz is his full name.
His work is catalogued within the movement of abstract expressionism and he is considered one of the great representatives of American abstraction, along with Newman and Pollock.
Rothko frequently uses large formats, painting rectangles with undefined borders
He frequently uses large formats, painting rectangles with undefined borders, with the feeling of being suspended.
The artist began his career as a self-educated painter.
In the beginning he was influenced by the painter Milton Avery, but his oil paintings overcame this influence with great success from art critics.
Over time his painting acquired dark tones, in which some want to see the premonition of his tragic end, suicide.
A complete and interesting analysis of Mark Rothko’s life and work:
San Francisco 1939.
The museum acquired “The Matter of Time” (1994-2005) and “The Snake” (1994-1997).
The colossal works owned by the museum occupy the most important space in the museum, which was conceived by Frank Gehry when he created the building to house such monumental pieces.
Richard Serra designs the space for the viewer to feel immersed in it
Richard Serra designs the work and distributes it in the space in such a way that the viewer feels immersed in it as he or she walks through it.
Serra considers these works to be the most important in his artistic career. The author explains the concept of the title “The Matter of Time” in two ways, the duration of the visit of the person who is visiting the work and the continuity of the experience in the memory of the visitor.
Serra explains the “Matter of Time” in two ways, the duration of the visit and the continuity of the experience in the memory
On the other hand, “The Snake” is formed by three curved sheets that are linked to sinuous forms.
He is a representative of American minimalism and is considered one of the best sculptors today.
In his youth he worked in a steel mill in Pittsburgh, an experience that later influenced his work.
Serra studied literature at the University of California and art at Yale University.
His most important works are mostly large format corten steel pieces.
As his career progressed, his works grew in size, moving from galleries to open spaces.
Norman Foster describes Serra as the greatest living sculptor.
They are colossal works, but at the same time simple and warm
They are colossal works, but at the same time simple and warm.
The artist has a close relationship with Spain, where he has come to exhibit on numerous occasions and some of his works have been acquired by local institutions.
Serra has works in many places around the world, such as London, San Francisco and Paris.
In 2010 he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts. He is Doctor Honoris Causa by the Universities of Navarra, Yale, and London. He is also a Knight of the Order of Arts and Literature of France
The following video shows Richard Serra telling us Why Make Art ?:
Drawing is very important in Richard Serra’s work and can be analyzed in the following interview:
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has an important collection of works by Kiefer.
“Iconoclastic Controversy” 1980. Link to image.
“Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the Cedar Forest II” 1981. Link to image.
“Untitled (el Rin)” 1982. Link to image.
“The Paths of World Wisdom: Hermann´s Battle” 1982-93. Link to image.
“Sun-Ship” 1984-95 Link to image.
“Berenice” 1989. Link to image.
“For Robert Fludd” 1995-96. Link to image.
“The Land of the Two Rivers” 1995. Link to image.
“Sunflowers” 1996. Link to image.
“Only with Wind, Time and Sound” 1997. Link to image.
“The Renomned Orders of the Night” 1997. Link to image.
Kiefer is a German painter and sculptor belonging to the neo-expressionist artistic movement.
He studied art in Freiburg im Breisgau in Karlsruhe and in Düsseldorf.
Kiefer is one of the best known German artists of the post-World War II era.
His works combine painting, sculpture and photography
His works combine painting, sculpture and photography. In his works, he uses a wide variety of materials, including waste materials. He includes letters, mythical figures, names that refer to literature or history. References to Nazism are frequent in his works.
I suggest the visualization of a video divided into five parts, which I would define as a coexistence with the artist, his philosophical concepts, his vision of art and his own work, his creative process that never ends, an experience of coexistence that inevitably makes us understand his work better:
San Sebastián 1924-2002
The Guggenheim Bilbao owns the following works made by Chillida:
“Advice to Space V”, 1993. Link to image.
“Space for the Spirit”, 1995. Link to image.
“Embrace XI”, 1996. Link to image.
“How Profound is the Air”, 1996 Link to image.
Sculptor and engraver, Eduardo Chillida worked mainly with iron and concrete.
Chillida began to study architecture in Madrid and followed
Chillida began to study architecture in Madrid, but left it, registering at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in the same city.
In 1948 he meets Picasso in Paris.
He worked in a forge in Hernani
He worked in a forge in Hernani, something that, together with his knowledge of architecture, had a decisive influence on the development of his work.
In 1964 he was awarded the Sculpture Prize of the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh.
Also in 1981, he was awarded the Gold Medal of Merit for Fine Arts in Madrid.
Later, in 1983, he was awarded the Prix Europäischer der Künste in Strasbourg.
Chillida was an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
On the other hand, in 1984, he was awarded the Grand Prix des Arts et Lettres de Paris.
He also received the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in 1987.
Japan awarded him the Japanese Imperial Prize in 1991.
In the last stage of his life, Cillida created Chillida Leku, a museum located in a farmhouse in Hernani, in whose gardens his works can be seen outdoors, with exhibition areas in the building itself.
Chillida began his career making figurative sculpture, but gradually his artistic career tended towards abstraction.
He is considered an important continuator of the work of Juli González and Pablo Picasso.
Solid or light geometric figures is the result of his creations.
The most usual materials were wood, concrete, stone, alabaster and steel.
The most usual materials were wood, concrete, stone, alabaster and steel
From the 1980s onwards, he produced large pieces such as “Gure Aitaren Etxea”, which is located in the Europa Park in Gernica-Lumo.
Chillida exhibited three times at the Venice Biennale (1958, 1988 and 1990).
The Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York held a retrospective exhibition on Chillida in 1980. The Guggenheim Bilbao presented another exhibition in 1999.
He was buried at Chillida Leku.
Finally, I suggest a closer look at the artist’s character through interesting reports that will help us to better understand the sculptor and his work:
Interview with Chillida and his creative process:
Chillida, the Depth of Air:
Eduardo Chillida the Steel Sculptor:
A meditation on Cillida Leku:
Orio 1908, San Sebastián 2003.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has the following works in its collection
“Empty Construction with Five Curved Malevich Units”, 1957. Link to image.
“Hillargia”, 1957. Link to image.
“Metaphysical Box by Conjunction of Two Trihedrons. Homage to Leonardo”, 1958.
“Empty Box With Large Opening”, 1958. Link to image.
Oteiza was one of the great Basque sculptors.
His early works were influenced by expressionism and primitivism.
His early works were influenced by expressionism and primitivism
Between 1934 and 1948, Oteiza lived in several Latin American countries, studying pre-Columbian sculptures, interacting with artists such as Negret or Roca Rey.
On his return to Spain, he was commissioned to make the frieze sculptures of the Basilica of Arantzazu, a sculptural group representing the apostles. His work was started in 1952, banned by the Church in 1954 and finally completed in 1968.
When he returned to Spain he experienced a transformation from mass sculpture to mainly spatial and energetic artifacts.
He was a self-taught sculptor, visionary and turbulent.
Oteiza was at the top of his career in 1959, when he announced that he was abandoning sculpture, in view of the general perplexity. Among other things, he had been awarded the First Prize at the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1957, with exhibitions in America and representation contracts in Germany, among others.
In Arantzazu’s sculptures, he used what he called the exhaustive use of emptiness and the negative. These are minimal and empty sculptures, which Richard Serra considers to be the precursors of minimalism.
In Arantzazu sculptures he used what he called the exhaustive use of emptiness and the negative
Oteiza published several books in which he expressed his theoretical concerns, which are present in his artistic and personal career.
At the end of the seventies he continued his theoretical activity and devoted his time to poetry.
He also experimented with movies.
Certain frustrated projects forged a strong character.
In 1988, La Caixa Foundation organised an anthological exhibition on his work in Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona, praising his sculptural career. That same year he exhibited at the Spanish Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, with the international impact that this implies. Also in 1988 he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts.
Oteiza and the Government of Navarra decided on the destination of the Oteiza Foundation’s assets in 1996, to which he donated his personal collection. The Oteiza Museum Foundation was established in the town of Alzuza in Navarre, with 1,650 sculptures and 2,000 pieces from his experimental laboratory, as well as 5,000 books from his personal library, plus a large number of drawings.
To conclude this section on Oteiza, what could be better than listening to the artist’s words about his work.
Oteiza explains his work:
And we approach the Museo Oteiza Museoa:
Nice 1928, Paris 1962.
“Large Blue Anphropometry”, 1960. Link to image.
“Fire Fountain”, 1961. Link to image.
He belonged to the neo-Dadaist movement and is one of the founders of the new French realism.
Most of his early work is done in a single color.
He patented the deep blue and called it International Klein Blue.
He patented International Klein Blue
Klein used women’s bodies covered with paint to enhance his paintings and called it anthropometry or living brushes.
In 1958 he was called to decorate the Opera House in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, where he made a series of murals in blue.
He also devoted himself to sculpture, using replicas of the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo, painting them in their famous blue.
The artist practiced judo and was influenced by Zen philosophy.
Klein also performed a musical composition, a monotonous symphony, 20 minutes of a sustained chord and another 20 minutes of silence.
I would like to end Klein’s description by recommending a video in which Daniel Moquay, husband of the painter’s widow and manager of his archives, speaks. It brings us closer to the person and the artist, his inspiration, his beliefs and helps us to understand his work:
Willem de Kooning
Rotterdam 1904, Long Island 1997.
The museum has only one work by this artist.
“Villa Borghese”, 1961. Link to image.
He belongs to the artistic movement of abstract expressionism. It is an artistic trend that emerged after World War II among European artists exiled in the United States.
Abstract expressionism is based on gesture.
Kooning is among the so-called painters of fields of colour or of silence.
“Villa Borghese” is a work inspired by Rome and takes its name from the Roman park. It is inspired by the Mediterranean colours, the yellow of the sun and the blue of the sky and the sea, and the green of the countryside.
I propose to see the following video that deals with the evolution in de Kooning’s work throughout his life:
Port Arthur, Texas 1925, Captiva Island, Florida 2008.
The museum owns a work by this artist.
“Barge” 1962-1963. Link to image.
He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute, the Académie Julian in Paris and later at Mountain College in North Carolina and the Art Students League in New York.
In his sculptures he reused waste objects.
It reached its peak in 1959, during its transition from the abstract expressionist movement to Pop Art, of which it was one of the major references.
He also worked with photography and engraving.
In 1964 ha was awarded the Grand Prize of Venice Biennale
In 1964 he was awarded the Grand Prize of the Venice Biennale, the first in his country to do so.
1995 was the year that he was awarded the Leonardo de Vinci World Arts Prize by the World Cultural Council.
Rauschenberg was famous for his “Combines”, in which he integrated painting and sculpture.
The BBC made a complete documentary in 2016 about the life and work of Robert Rauschenberg through the experiences of people who shared part of his life with the artist:
Grandin, Dakota del Norte 1904, Baltimore, Maryland 1980.
The Guggenheim Bilbao acquired for the collection a work by Still
“Untitled” 1964. Link to image.
Clyfford Still is an important representative of abstract expressionism.
Still entered the Art Students League in New York, but left it immediately because he felt it did not help him.
He went to Spokane University in Washington and stayed for a year. A few years later he returns and graduates in Art.
With his work, he seeks a disturbing impact, transcendental experiences.
“The best works are usually those with the least number of elements and the simplest ones.”
As he said:
“The best works are usually those with the least number of elements and the simplest ones: paintings that are obvious, until you look at them a little more closely and things start to happen.”
In this link you can find a brief but very precise description of the works created by Still:
The artist decided to donate his works, which belong to his personal collection, for the creation of a museum, the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado, USA. This museum owns 94% of his work, a total of 2,400 paintings. We can learn more about this institution in the following video:
We can find more details about the life and work of the painter in the following report:
Brooklyn, New York 1960, New York 1988.
Guggenheim Bilbao acquired for the collection two works.
“Man from Naples” 1982. Link to image.
“Moses and the Egyptians” , 1982. Link to image.
Of Haitian descent, Basquiat in his youth painted graffiti on New York City subway cars. He signed them SAMO (Same Old Shit).
Basquiat painted graffiti on New York subways cars
He was greatly influenced by Andy Warhol, a close relationship that left its mark on the work of both.
Basquiat is the most prominent visual artist in African-American art.
The artist was very much attracted to abstract expressionism.
He attended the School of Visual Arts as an auditing student.
Basquiat had 40 individual exhibitions and a hundred collective ones.
His work is clearly defined as non-conformist and was inspired by the German neo-expressionism of painters such as Willem Kooning.
The art he developed art has been described as counterculture
The art he developed has been described as a counterculture and yet he was highly sought after and his expertise sought at the most exclusive events.
But his drug addiction made him die young.
I suggest that you view the following report on the life and work of Basquiat, it is very complete and captures the atmosphere that was breathed in New York in the 70s and 80s, a brutal city, convulsed but a great hotbed of art:
Dresden, East Germany, 1932.
The museum purchased a work by this artist.
“Seascape” 1998 Link to image.
Gerard studied at the Academy of Art in Dresden. His training was directed towards advertising, stage sets and murals.
Richter discovered abstract expressionism and avant-garde trends in Düsseldorf.
He had photo-painting phase in which he fused both elements.
In the late 1960s he tended towards constructionism.
At the time of 1970s, he was influenced by minimalism.
He was influenced by neo-expressionism in the 80s.
Richter is one of the most sought-after artists today.
We can get closer to the artist and the person of Richter through this interview:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1928, New York, 1987.
Guggenheim Bilbao owns in the collection a work by this author.
“One Hundred and fifty Multicolored Marilyns”, 1979. Link to image.
His real name was Andy Warhole.
He had an unhealthy childhood, which contributed to the development of a hypochondriacal personality.
Warhol had an unhealthy childhood
Warhol decided to study applied arts, design and graphic arts at the Technological University Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. After finishing his studies he moved to New York, where he started his career as an illustrator.
He worked as an illustrator for several publications, a job he has done with great success, winning awards such as the Art Directors Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Warhol had a very relevant participation in the evolution of the Pop Art movement.
He worked in painting, literature and film. He was an icon of modernity of his time.
His creations used very diverse artistic media, such as painting, sculpture, engraving, silk-screen printing, photography and drawing.
In 1962 he discovered a printing technique, silk-screen printing, which allowed him to repeat his work, transferring his creativity to a production system.
His first exhibition was in California and shortly afterwards another one in New York, where he began to use the repetition of Marilyn Monroe’s image, Campbell’s soup cans and Coca Cola bottles, which are so popularly identified with his work.
The Factory, his studio, famous for being frequented by artists, celebrities of New York society at the time, models and writers. His collaborators who participated in the creation of his works worked in this studio, which on many occasions has served to question the authenticity of his creations.
Warhol was not always admired, because of his tendency to scandals
He was not always admired, because of his tendency to scandals and the use of the media, which in some cases could have trivialized his work.
In 1968 Warhol was attacked by a member of his circle of collaborators. He was shot twice, leaving him in serious condition. The aftermath of this altercation accompanied him for the rest of his life. This event did not have much transcendence since two days later Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.
70’s were not so breakthrough for Warhol, years in which he painted portraits of his famous friends and racing cars, in what came to be called “art car”.
In his last period he painted abstract shadows, with subjects as death and religion
In this last period he painted abstract shadows and dealt with subjects such as death and religion. He externalized his religiosity, which he had not done until then.
After his death in 1987, his artistic career has been studied by numerous authors and a good number of retrospective exhibitions have been held.
There are two museum dedicated to Andy Warhol
There are two museums dedicated to Warhol’s artistic work. The first, the Andy Warhol Museum, is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has 12,000 works by the artist. The second institution is the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art and is located in Medzilaborce in Slovakia, where his parents were born.
Watch the following video that provides a detailed overview of the artist’s life and work, a portrait of New York society at the time and the environment that surrounded and inspired him:
This report tells 15 curiosities about Warhol:
100 works by Andy Warhol:
If you want to know in detail all the collection of works of the Guggenheim Bilbao you can access the section of the official website from Here.