Exhibition: Arnasa (Breath) - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The guest work


2020-06-04 • 2021-01-01

Arnasa (Breath)

Maider López

A(r)teak zabalduz


In a discussion with Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London; and Miriam Alzuri, art historian and technician of the museum, the artist will talk about the circumstances in which the work was produced and her process of creation.

Friday 14 August, at 8 p.m. on our YouTube channel.

The Banco Santander Foundation and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum are reactivating The Guest Work programme with a site-specific creation which emerged from the museum's commission to the artist Maider López. Arnasa (Breath) is a light installation visible from outside the museum which will be shown every day between sundown and 1 am.

The Banco Santander Foundation and the museum are announcing a new work within The Guest Work partnership programme with the unveiling of a very special work today. The participants were Gabriel Zabala, director of Regional Institutional Banking in the Basque Country at Banco Santander; Javier Novo, coordinator of Conservation and Research at the museum; Maider López, artist; and Miguel Zugaza, museum director.

Within the novel context of the healthcare crisis caused by COVID-19, the museum and the Banco Santander Foundation invited Maider López (San Sebastián, 1975) to create an artistic intervention which interacts with the institution itself, while prompting spectators to reflect on the role of art and museums in society. This is the first time—in the 19 years and 63 editions in which The Guest Work has been held—that the museum has specifically created a work which in this case has the added value of being closely tied to both its own space and current events.

The result is Arnasa (Breath), an installation in which the brightness of the museum's light varies at the pace of breathing. Even though the museum is closed and has no humans present, the artist thus suggests that the museum is expanding and contracting and still "breathing", that it is alive and contributing to the communal life around it. In the words of its creator: "it is a piece made to be seen from the streets, to look at the museum from the outside and integrate it into the city".

Arnasa (Breath) (2020)

The current healthcare crisis has sparked an exceptional juncture in which museums almost all over the world have been closed. Yet they have kept working, the galleries have remained intact, and the paintings and works have continued to be kept in the environmental conditions they need to be maintained, cared for by the museum staff. These paintings have been there without the public, perhaps also in the imaginations of people at home, but especially present in the museum.

In Maider López's work, the Bilbao museum is opening its limits and visitors, absent thus far, morph into passers-by—like Charles Baudelaire'saimless flâneur—who perceive the work not by going inside but from the outside, at a time in history when walking around the city and the need for the outdoors have turned into collective yearnings.

Maider López describes her work this way:

"The museum breathes through light. The light inside the building is slowly turned on and off at the calm, constant pace of breathing. The light streams out of the windows, expanding the museum, connecting indoors and outdoors. The changes in the brightness of the light can be seen from the streets, and the passers-by see how the inside of the museum emanates light, giving the sense that it is breathing while drawing attention to the building's inner life.

The lights in all the museum's galleries gradually turn on and off at the same time. The entire museum breathes as one, and each of its façades shows it.

The gradual shift from light to darkness and vice-versa takes approximately 8 seconds, and between each light transition there is a moment of stillness (light or darkness) that lasts approximately 3 seconds. The sense that the building is breathing comes from the timing and the similarity with the frequency of breathing through inhalation (transition to light), air retention or apnoea (brief stillness) and exhalation (transition from light to darkness) and apnoea (darkness) again, as well as the constant repetition of these phases.

Though still closed, the museum is alive. When I visited the closed museum for two months, I felt how those works had remained there, even though we weren't there. It was a powerful sensation of life, that even when closed the museum is still contributing, like a garden we cannot enter or even see or enjoy directly, but whose trees and vegetation enhance communal life through the air, through the bees that visit it…

My work starts with existing elements which create a new situation when dislocated, thereby transforming communal realities. In this case, the rhythm of the light is dislocated to spotlight the life of the museum, expanding it, giving it movement and animating it. It is an installation that intervenes in the public space and architecture by breaking the static nature of things and places and encouraging us to seek new ways of seeing and interacting with our environs."

Arnasa (Breath) can be seen from outside the museum every day between sundown and 1 am. It is an ephemeral creation that will be recorded on video and in photographs



Technical information

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
Coordination: Javier Novo González (Ccoordinator of Conservation and Research)
Miriam Alzuri Milanés (Technician in the Exhibition Department)
Lighting: Eneko Rekalde Larrinaga (Head of Lighting and Systems)
Francisco Alonso Muñiz (Assistant in Lighting and Systems)
Audiovisuals: Ramón Ganuza Álvarez (Assistant in Recording and Editing/Photography)
Lighting: Karmelo Tamayo Gutiérrez (Spazio Viabizzuno Vbobilbao)
Andoni Ramos Rodríguez y Alberto Robledinos Sanchez (Ditalight)
Recording and editing: Pablo del Caño Ayuda


Maider López

With a Bachelor's in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country, Maider López (San Sebastián, 1975) also studied at the Chelsea College of Arts in London and is one of the most internationally renowned Basque artists.

Her work primarily revolves around actions and interventions whose point of departure is architecture and public space, and they suggest to spectators new ways of perceiving and interacting with the everyday. Her works often require public participation by getting the public involved and making them part of a subtly altered space.

Her work has been extensively shown both in Spain and abroad. She has participated in the Venice Biennale in 2005 (The Experience of Art, 51st Biennale di Venezia), the Sharjah Biennial in 2009 (Provisions for the Future, 9th Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates) and the Istanbul Biennial in 2013 (Mom, Am I a Barbarian, 13th Istanbul Biennial).

She has also made projects for the public space and showed her works in museums and cultural institutions like Galería Espacio Mínimo, Madrid (Zoom In, 2017); Matadero Madrid (1645 Tizas, 2016); Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, San Sebastián, and MARCO, Vigo (Desplazamiento, 2015 and 2016); Les Ateliers de Rennes, 4th Biennale d'Art Contemporain, Rennes, France (Play Time, 2014); Lower Austria Contemporary (Mountain, 2013); SKOR. Foundation Art and Public Space and Witte de With Contemporary Art, Netherlands (Polder Cup, 2010); Centre Pompidou-Metz, France (Eclats, 2010); SCAPE, Christchurch Biennial of Art in Public Space, New Zealand (2008); Guggenheim Bilbao Museum (Chacun à Son Goût, 2007) and Caixa Forum Barcelona (Columnes, 2006), among others.