On the occasion of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Basque Parliament, its seat in Vitoria-Gasteiz is hosting an exhibition that addresses the intrahistoria or background to the sculpture Izaro by Néstor Basterretxea (Bermeo, Bizkaia, 1924Hondarribia, Guipuzcoa, 2014), which, since 1983, has occupied the main wall of the Parliament Assembly Hall.
The display, organised by the Basque Parliament and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, has been curated by the art critic and writer Peio Aguirre, who is also the author of the meticulous brochure that accompanies the showing. The brochure and exhibition were designed by Gorka Eizagirre. The exhibition consists mainly of preliminary sketches and drawings done by the artist during the sculpture creation process, a variety of documents, such as photographs and press clippings, as well as replicas, versions and different applications of its image. These materials, together with other works from the same periodfrom the Basque Parliament, the Ipia Bidaurrazaga Collection, the Kutxa Fundazioa Collection, the Lazkaoko Beneditarren Fundazioa and the Artium Museum Collection, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and the Basterretxea Familyenable us to gain an understanding of Basterretxeas sculptural method, greatly influenced by his interest in design and industrial production.
With the main purpose of showcasing the creative itinerary of this iconic sculpture, Izaro, the display also pays tribute to the artist and his formal universe.
In the words of the curator of the exhibition, Peio Aguirre, “Izaro is an exceptional work, since there are no similar cases in the world where a modern, abstract work of art, in addition to occupying a central space in political life, is both the icon and the logo of a parliament. The social and political consensus regarding this symbol is complete”.
In this way, the sculpture, a solid piece made of oak, presides over the political debates of the Basque Parliament, an institution that was established on March 31, 1980 in a plenary session held at the Guernica General Assembly. Following a meeting in the provincial councils of Bizkaia and lava, in 1982 it was installed in the former Institute of Vitoria-Gasteiz, refurbished as the seat of the parliamentary institution. That same year, the Bureau of the Parliament called a public bid to design the representative symbol of the Basque Parliament, specifying its future location on the main wall of the Chambers Assembly Hall. The jury, comprising celebrities from the cultural sphere, chose Néstor Basterretxeas work from out of the twenty-two proposals submitted anonymously.
The winning project was Izaro, an abstract shape whose title refers to the island located opposite Bermeo, the artists hometown. As corresponds to this stage of his career, in which he is very interested in contemporary public sculpture, up until then almost non-existent in the Basque Country, the work acquires symbolic representation connotations. With respect to the ramification of the work in seven points, Basterretxea himself commented, “It has no origin other than the ethnic and cultural expression that I wanted to give to my work”.
The sculpture symbolises a tree, thus evoking the Basque tradition of agreeing and legislating under the trees of the anteiglesias or elizates, an early form of local government. It was made in a sawmill in Hondarribia from an oak trunk from the French town of Le Mans, in which original pieces of the Old Tree of Guernica, donated for this purpose, were embedded. It measures 2.2 m high, 2.45 wide, 70 cm deep and 30 cm at the bottom, and weighs more than half a ton. As Basterretxea said, “The tree leans towards the hall”.
Izaro was installed in the Assembly Hall in January 1983, under the supervision of its author, Néstor Basterretxea. From then on, it became an icon of the Basque Parliament, and has been the sole symbol of the Basque Chamber since the second parliamentary term.
The Basque Parliament
C/ Becerro de Bengoa
Exhibition installed until April 2022
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