The spirit of Eduardo Chillida reverberates throughout Chillida Leku — “the place of Chillida” in the Basque language. Here, Chillida’s works reside between earth and sky, in perfect dialogue with their natural surroundings, in this expansive outdoor sculpture park located in Hernani, only five kilometers from San Sebastián in Spain.
The long-awaited reopening of Chillida Leku took place on April 17, 2019. The museum was officially opened in 2000, two years before Chillida passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Following management and financial difficulties during Spain’s financial crisis in the mid-to-late 2000s, the museum was closed to the general public in 2011 but remained accessible by appointment.
Mireia Massagué, former director of the Gaudí Exhibition Center in Barcelona and current director of Chillida Leku, said in an interview that “the museum will become a must-see destination for studying and understanding the work of Eduardo Chillida.”
Luis Chillida, son of the artist and chairman of the Fundación Eduardo Chillida–Pilar Belzunce, reported that he is “happy that visitors are entering the museum and enjoying the space created by my aita” (“father” in Basque). Over the past seven months Chillida Leku has welcomed approximately sixty thousand visitors.
In 1982 the artist stopped working with French gallerist Aimé Maeght and began to focus on his new home and studio: Chillida Leku, built at Zabalaga, a sixteenth-century Basque farmhouse surrounded by thirty acres of parkland, some of it densely wooded. Chillida eventually placed forty large-scale sculpture made out of iron, steel, and granite among the many oak and poplar trees, and would welcome visitors to touch and listen to the sonic qualities of his works as they experienced his philosophical concepts of emptiness, light, and sound.
For the reopening, the existing installation was renovated by Paris-based Argentine architect Luis Laplace, in collaboration with architect Jon Essery Chillida, the artist’s grandson. The park and gardens were redesigned by Dutch landscape architect Piet Outdolf.
Mireia Massagué manages Chillida Leku in consultation with Iwan Wirth and Manuela Hauser, who are behind many of the project’s artistic and financial decisions. The Swiss contemporary and modern art gallery Hauser & Wirth is not only involved in Chillida Leku, but also represents Chillida’s estate. They believe that Chillida’s oeuvre has not yet received the recognition it deserves on the international stage.
Massagué declared that it is “a place where things happen; this is the main challenge. The goal is to keep the museum as it was conceived by Eduardo Chillida himself. Everyone who visits Chillida Leku will notice that the place remains the same.”
The museum’s next big milestone will be its first exhibition with another artist — in this case sculptor David Smith, whose work is closely linked with Chillida’s. Works by both artists will be in dialogue not only in the farmhouse but also outdoors. The exhibition, scheduled for April through November 2020, speaks well of the museum’s auspicious and open-armed future.