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Eduardo Chillida’s exhibition highlights lesser-known works inspired by summer holidays in Menorca

Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) would have been 100 years old this year. Born and raised in San Sebastian, he was a dedicated Basque who, despite his criticism of the separatist group Eta, became a leading figure in the region; In his use of materials, notably iron, used in the region for centuries, he applied modernist ideas using ancient techniques.

During his lifetime, Chillida arguably became the most internationally recognized Spanish sculptor, a paradoxical feat under the Franco dictatorship, which had limited sympathy for abstract art. While political headwinds blew here and there, and his works were interpreted variously as Basque, Spanish and internationalist, Chillida said that “a person, any person, is more valuable than a flag, no matter what flag.”

To commemorate its centenary, Hauser & Wirth Menorca is organizing a major exhibition of monumental public works by Chillida, as well as sculptures, drawings, collages and prints. Alongside her relationship with the natural world, emphasis will be placed on Chillida’s humanist, even apolitical, sensibilities.

Chillida Lurra M-13 (1995), a terracotta piece inspired by the island Photo: Marc Autenrieth. Courtesy of the Estate of Eduardo Chillida and Hauser & Wirth

While continuing to work every day, with her eight children, from 1989 Chillida took her family to Menorca during the summers and it was there that her work took on a “lighter” quality, explains her grandson, Mikel Chillida . “The move from the heavier, darker atmosphere of the Basque Country, where everything seemed to be pushed with such gravitational power, to the Mediterranean, with its unique light and joyful sense of elevation, reminded my grandfather of his first trips to Greece,” he said. The rugged landscape of Menorca, and in particular the prehistoric Talayote settlements, helped inspire the Lurrah (earth), pieces of chamotte clay with deep keyhole-like grooves that suggest hidden spaces within.

Chillida in Menorca at Hauser & Wirth Menorca © Zabalaga Leku. San Sebastian, VEGAP, 2024; Courtesy of the Estate of Eduardo Chillida and Hauser & Wirth; Photo: Damian Griffiths

Designed on Menorca’s Illa del Rei by architect Luis Laplace, who helped transform the Chillida Leku, a former barn-workshop and now the artist’s foundation in San Sebastian, the exhibition seeks to reorient our perception of the Chillida, from the macho machinist towards a sensitive vision. lover of the natural world. But it is his “goalkeeper-sculptor” persona that, for many, continues to endure (his promising footballing debut as Real Sociedad goalkeeper was abruptly cut short by a knee injury).

Mikel Chillida explains how football, as well as art, allowed his grandfather to find a way to commune with the world: “’The goalkeeper is the only one who watches everything,’ my grandfather told me…’ there is nothing behind it, except the goal, which is the only three-dimensional object on the field, and it is he who controls it… In art as in football, everything is time and space.’”

Chillida in MenorcaHauser & Wirth Menorca, Illa del Rei, May 11-October 27