Presentation of Chillida’s work restored in the IBERDROLA Program Fine Arts Museum of Bilbao 2017
The Iberdrola-Museo Program annually treats various conservation and restoration of works belonging to the museum’s artistic heritage, in order to be in the best conditions for its preservation and exhibition. This year, among the selected pieces stands out the great sculpture of the Basque artist Eduardo Chillida, Place of encounters IV (1973-1974), which welcomes visitors. Since 2000, in addition, the Basque sculptor gives name to the square and the entrance hall to the museum. Being a sculpture exposed abroad, it now required a more exhaustive treatment than that of the usual maintenance works to which it is periodically subjected. This conservation and restoration treatment has been developed over the last four weeks.
At the presentation ceremony of the restored sculpture, have attended: Assis Canales, institutional delegate for the Basque Country of Iberdrola; Ramón Castresana, director of the Iberdrola Foundation; Carmen Recio, responsible for the Areas of Art and Culture and Biodiversity of the Iberdrola Foundation; María José Ruiz-Ozaita, head of the Museum’s Restoration Department; Javier Chillida, specialist in stone materials; And Miguel Zugaza, director of the museum.
The meeting places of Eduardo Chillida
Among Chillida’s extensive sculptures corpus stands out a series of works of monumental character, created mainly for the purpose of being exhibited in public places, generically titled “Place of encounters”. The spirit that inspired his production is summarized in these significant words of the sculptor himself: “meeting places, spaces for dialogue and coexistence.”
The series consists of seven pieces made over a decade, dated between 1964, the oldest, and 1974, the most recent. Although the first two were executed in wood and steel corten, respectively, for the rest was used, including the one in our museum, concrete. All the pieces, excluding the first of the series, have monumental scale, with measures close to 5 meters in length and several tons of weight.
In the case of the museum’s work, the concrete piece weighs over 16 tons and measures 215 x 475 x 408 cm. It was executed between 1973 and 1974, and donated to the museum by Chillida in 1982. The piece was placed, under the direct supervision of the artist, in the old ground floor of the modern building, in what is now the entrance hall. But in June 2000, and again with his supervision, the piece was located in its current location.
In this series of works Chillida approaches the invention of new models of architectural sculptures for the contemporary urban contexts. The first project in concrete was Place of encounters II (1971), in Madrid, the first of its great works suspended for which was counted on the participation of the engineer José Antonio Fernández Ordóñez. Many of them were public commissions and large-scale interventions for outdoor spaces: Meeting Place I (1954) in New York; Place of meetings II (1971) and Place of meetings III (1972) in Madrid; Place of meetings V (1973) in Toledo; Place of meetings VI (1974) in the Foundation Juan March of Madrid and Place of meetings VII (1974) in Palma de Mallorca. Several preparatory studies in bronze, steel, iron and plaster are also preserved.
One of the fundamental investigations that Chillida addressed in these sculptures is the structuring of forms in space and, more specifically, the investigation of the relations between the outer space that surrounds the form and its interior space. “There is a common problem,” wrote the artist, “in most of my work: that of” interior space, “the consequence and origin of the external positive volumes. In order to define these interior spaces it is necessary to wrap them up, making them almost inaccessible to the outside viewer … I aspire to define the hollow three-dimensional by means of the full three-dimensional, establishing at the same time a kind of dialogue between them. ”
Another feature is the use of concrete. Chillida exalts the roughness and monochromatic values of the material to seek the union between seemingly opposing qualities, such as the roughness of the material with the delicacy of the contour lines, and the rotundity of form with the solemnity of emptiness.
Finally, it is necessary to mention the concept of levitation so present in much of his work, both sculptural and graphic. Place of meetings IV, suspended by steel cables, rises a few centimeters from the ground, and that slight elevation is enough to create an effect that cancels the sixteen tons of weight in favor of the harmony of the curves and the alternation between the vacuum and The full of forms.
When dealing with the state of conservation of concrete pieces in Chillida, and their possible intervention, it is necessary to take into account the technique used in these works. From the use of reinforced concrete, the sculptural volume is formed by means of a metallic reinforcement delimited by a formwork or a wooden structure that acts as a container for cement and aggregates.
One of the main conservation problems that these works present, as with the museum piece, is the corrosion of the inner metal reinforcement, which can generate small cracks and breaks in the cement, causing formal losses.
Another risk factor that compromises conservation is its installation in the exterior, which allows the climatic agents to act directly on the materials that compose the work, thus accelerating oxidation processes and promoting biological colonization.
After analyzing all these factors and carrying out the relevant technical studies prior to the intervention in place of encounters IV (verification of the structure, study of the alkalinity of the cement, oxidation and biological pests), the treatment of the surface stratum of The work through the application of a “biocide” product.
This process was combined with a specific consolidation for stone materials and with the treatment of the oxidations present in the metallic elements. Finally, small reintegration interventions were performed, both in volume and chromatic losses, according to the requirements of the conservation status and always following a criterion of minimal intervention.
This program of preventive conservation will allow to control the evolution of the work in the future and to define an optimal protocol of action.