Richard Serra (San Francisco, CA, 1938-), 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 1987, Hot-rolled steel, Eight plates, each: 184.8 x 400 x 5.1 cm, Collection of the artist, © Richard Serra 2011, © FMGBGuggenheim Bilbao Museoa, 2011.
Richard Serra, New York, 1987, Photo: Serra Studio, New York / Nancy Lee Katz.
Richard Serra (San Francisco, CA, 1938-), Floor Pole Prop, 1969, Lead, Plate 240 x 250 x 1.3 cm, pole, 250 cm long, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Photo: Serra Studio, Nueva York / Peter Moore.
Constantin Brancusi (Hobita, Romania, 1876- Paris, 1957), La Maiastra, 1912, Bronze, 55.5 x 17 x 17.8 cm, Base: limestone, Two parts, overall 33.5 x 22 x 19 cm, Tate, London, © Tate, London, 2011.
Constantin Brancusi (Hobita, Romania, 1876- Paris, 1957), The Child in the World: Mobile Group [L'enfant au monde, groupe mobile], 1917, Negative, 18 x 13 cm, Musée national d'Art moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou, Bequest of the artist, 1957, © Collection Centre Pompidou, distributed by RMN, Paris / Jacques Faujour.
Richard Serra (San Francisco, CA, 1938-), The Consequence of Consequence, 2011, Forged, weatherproof steel, Two blocks, each 88.9 x 101.6 x 114.3 cm, Collection of the artist, Photo: Lorenz Kienzle.
Constantin Brancusi (Hobita, Romania, 1876- Paris, 1957), Sleeping Muse (La Muse endormie), 1911, Bronze, polished, 16 x 27.3 x 18.5 cm, Centre Georges Pompidou, Nusée national d'art moderne, Paris, Baroness Renée Irana Frachon, 1963, © Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris, distributed by Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris.
+ 94 435 90 00
and Gallery 104, First Floor
October 8, 2011-April 13, 2012
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao hosts Serra-Brancusi, the most ambitious exhibition to date on the work of Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) and Richard Serra (1938), two of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century.
Organized by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in co-operation with the Fondation Beyeler Riehen/Basel, the show examines the connections between these two pioneers of sculpture through nearly 50 works, offering a unique overview of the period of over 100 years in which modern sculpture developed.
Brancusi, born in Romania and a resident of Paris from 1904 onwards, reduced sculptural forms to their bare essentials and, in so doing, laid the foundations of abstract sculpture. Half a century later, American artist Richard Serra redefined the effects of sculpture by creating minimalist steel pieces which literally draw the viewer into the work.
This show, a joint initiative of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Fondation Beyeler and curated by Oliver Wick, brings the work of these two artists face-to-face, allowing them to strike up a free, open dialogue. Both artists have made a dynamic, indelible mark on the history of art and forever altered the course of modern sculpture.
The work of Constantin Brancusi had a powerful influence on Richard Serra’s artistic career. In 1964-65, the artist received a grant from Yale University to study in Paris, where he spent several months visiting daily the reconstructed studio of the master, who had died seven years earlier. There Serra sketched, contemplated, and strove to understand everything around him, an experience that would have a profound effect on his artistic mindset and guide his career path towards sculpture. Brancusi’s studio, filled with three-dimensional forms and activities, spatial qualities and working processes, had an effect on Serra which he would later describe as something akin to “a handbook of possibilities."
The American sculptor’s work also allows us to view Brancusi’s unique sculpture style from a new perspective and to appreciate his works and his pioneering contributions — for example, multi-component pedestals, serial production, piles, and cut lines — from a different angle, as a type of sculpture that is much more profound and significant than any merely lovely form could ever be.
Overview of the exhibition
The sculptural volumes and curving galleries of the building designed by Frank Gehry offer a seemingly infinite space that interacts beautifully with the selection of major works by these two artists.
Thirty pieces arranged in thematic groups trace the essential aspects of Brancusi’s sculptural output, comprising a retrospective of his oeuvre unlike anything ever seen in Spain before. The selection, which spans 40 years of the artist’s career, reveals the keys to Brancusi’s unique sculptural universe through some of his most important creations, including several variations on the monolithic piece The Kiss (Le Baiser), the poetic Children’s Heads (Têtes d’enfant), Sleeping Muses (Les Muses endormies), and the renowned Birds in Space (Oiseaux dans l’espace), as well as works which sparked a degree of controversy in their day such as Princess X (Princesse X), Adam and Eve (Adam et Ève), and the iconic White Negress (La Négresse blanche). Brancusi’s “mobile group” entitled The Child in the World (L’Enfant au monde) has also been reconstructed from the original wooden sculptures Cup (II) (Coupe [II], 1917-18) and Little French Girl (Petite fille française), ca. 1914-18).
The exhibition reveals Brancusi’s quest for an artistic ideal, which he pursued by experimenting with the qualities of his materials, their different surfaces and their ability to reflect or absorb light. His marble and bronze sculptures are interspersed with pieces in plaster and wood throughout the second floor, allowing visitors to perceive the essential qualities of his work and of his main sculpture groups.
The concept of an ideal presence in space and the issue of the essence of sculpture are addressed in the show through nine sculptures and a new series of works on paper by Richard Serra, offering a unique review of the career and evolution of this renowned American sculptor over the last 40 years. The selection ranges from early pieces in rubber and lead, such as the seminal Belts (1966-67) or House of Cards (1969), to characteristic steel sculptures like Circuit (1972), which divides a square space from its four corners, or 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 (1987), a piece which playfully inverts the definition of a central point in space.
The theme of the curve is omnipresent in the torqued ellipses and torqued spirals of Serra’s monumental installation The Matter of Time, a sculptural landmark regarded as the most complex and ambitious expression of formal language produced by this artist in the past 25 years. This installation has occupied the Gallery 104 ArcelorMittal at the Museum since 2005 and is one of the pivotal elements of the exhibition.
Many of the works featured in Serra-Brancusi were loaned by prestigious private collections and international museums, including: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Sheldon Museum of Art (University of Nebraska – Lincoln); the Art Gallery of Ontario; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Muzeul de Arta, Craiova; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; the Stiftung Wilhem Lehmbruck Museum from Duisburg; and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.
A series of educational spaces have been prepared in conjunction with this exhibition, allowing visitors to gain a better understanding of the show and its contents.
The second-floor hallway provides an overview of great milestones in the history of sculpture from Antiquity to the present day, as well as biographical details on the two artists featured in the exhibition.
This space is complemented by the existing educational area in the Gallery 104 ArcelorMittal dedicated to Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time, which features a scale model of the installation, audiovisuals with interviews of the artist, and videos filmed by Serra himself. A new screening room with audiovisuals about Brancusi has also been set up in this area.
As part of the program of parallel activities that the Museum has organized to accompany this show, the Museum Auditorium will host the Sculpture Network’s 10th International Sculpture Forum on November 10, 11, and 12, with the participation of artists such as Miroslaw Balka, Tony Cragg, Jaume Plensa, and Susan Philips and curators and art experts such as Oliver Wick, Brigitte Franzen, and Gertrud Sandqvist.
Additionally, the Museum will organize an audiovisual series that will analyze the role of modern sculpture from a multidisciplinary perspective from November 29 to December 1.
The illustrated catalogue produced to accompany this exhibition documents the artistic evolution of Brancusi and Serra through essays written by Oliver Wick, Friedrich Teja Bach, Alfred Pacquement, and Jacqueline Matisse Monnier, with additional commentaries by Raphael Bouvier, Denise Ellenberger, Alexandra Parigoris, Ileana Parvu, Marielle Tabart, Michelle White and Jon Wood, and biographies of both artists.
Constantin Brancusi (Hobita, Romania, 1876- Paris, 1957), Une muse, 1912, White marble, 45 x 23 x 17cm, Base: oak, ca. 1920, Three parts, overall 97.5 x 47.3 x 47 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Constantin Brancusi (Hobita, Romania, 1876- Paris, 1957), La sorciére, 1916-24, Walnut, 99.1 x 48 x 64.1 cm, Base: limestone, 14.9 x 28.6 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 56.1448, Base: Chien de garde, 1916, Oak, 73.7 x 38.6 x 36.8 cm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 58.1503.
Constantin Brancusi (Hobita, Romania, 1876- Paris, 1957), Princesse X, 1915, White marble, 55.9 x 27.9 x 22.9 cm, Base: limestone, 16.2 x 16.2 x 14cm, Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, UNL, Gift of Mrs. Olga N. Sheldon in memory of Adams Bromley Sheldon.
Constantin Brancusi (Hobita, Romania, 1876- Paris, 1957), L’oiseau, 1923-47, Blue-gray marble, Height 89.2cm, Base: limestone and veined marble, Two parts, overall height 31.8 cm, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel.