Bergé Collection Donation - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

2024-07-11 • 2024-09-30

Bergé Collection Donation

ROOMs 17, 26-31

This June, at the initiative of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, the trustees of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Foundation approved the proposed donation of the Bergé Collection of international contemporary art, assembled over the last three decades by the firm Bergé y Compañía.

The arrival of this collection increases the presence of European, North American and Latin American art in the museum, providing a counterpoint of remarkable scope and rigour for contextualising the most recent artistic creations.

The Bergé Collection donation consists of ninety-four artworks made between the late 1980s and the early twenty-first century. A significant number of women artists are represented in the group, which also attests to the great diversity of artistic practices during this period: paintings, works on paper, sculptures, photographs, videos and installations.

Since its inception, the Bergé Collection focused on acquiring early pieces by up-and-coming artists. Today it boasts works by Spanish creators whose international careers have taken off in recent years, such as Susana Solano, Pepe Espaliú, Cristina Iglesias, Ibon Aranberri and Dora García, as well as foreign artists like Tim Rollings + KOS, Vik Muniz, Céline van Balen, David Shrigley, Nedko Solakov, Rosario López, João Pénalva and Moris.

The donation of this collection honours Bergé’s founding purpose: to introduce current generations to the complex, stimulating artistic narrative of what is happening in our world and bequeath it to future generations.

At the same time, the gift reinforces Bergé y Compañía’s long-standing connection, forged in the late 1800s, to the city of Bilbao and to Bizkaia and also ties in with the century-old history of the Fine Arts Museum. The timing could not be more perfect, as this year marks the centenary of the creation of Bilbao’s first contemporary art museum, the Museo de Arte Moderno, forerunner of the current Fine Arts Museum.

To introduce this latest addition to its holdings, from now until September the museum will exhibit six works in the same halls as the Sergio Prego installation Thirteen to Centaurus, a representative sampling of the Bergé Collection that illustrates its special interest in sculpture:

  • Susana Solano. La Caritat, n.º 3 (1986-1987)
  • Cristina Iglesias. Sin título n.º 389 (1990)
  • Jonathan Borofski. Counting (3, 326, 754-3, 326, 760) (1990)
  • Vik Muniz. Richard Serra, Prop, 1968 (Picture of Dust) (2000)
  • Ibon Aranberri. Ornate and rigid (galvanized) (2007)
  • Diango Hernández. Sin título (2005)

These selected sculpture pieces are accompanied by one of the first works to enter the Bergé Collection—Double Speaker by American artist Richard Artschwager—which the museum recently acquired. Made in 1966 out of a novel industrial material called Formica, the work is an exceptional example of early minimalism.

The Bergé Collection

For Bergé y Cía., a family company founded by three Basque entrepreneurs in 1870, collecting international contemporary art has been an exemplary pursuit in a corporate ecosystem that ranges from the firm’s original port activities to wine culture, transport, the automotive industry and new technologies. The collection that has now entered the museum was started in the 1980s with a clear emphasis on contemporary art and the aim of bearing witness to the artistic scene and most pressing social issues of our time.

In 2008, the Bergé Collection received the ARCO Corporate Collecting Prize. In 2011 it was invited to join the non-profit IACCCA (International Association of Corporate Collections of Contemporary Art), whose members represent over fifty of the world’s most important collections assembled by corporate groups and organisations, and in 2014 it joined the association's board of directors. In 2015 it was included in Global Corporate Collections, a book featuring the eighty finest corporate collections in the world.

In recent years, Bergé has loaned works for exhibitions organised by prestigious cultural institutions and museums across the globe, including the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Madrid Stock Exchange, Sala Alcalá 31 managed by the Regional Government of Madrid, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Fundación Mapfre, Museo Picasso in Málaga, Fundació Joan Miró, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville, Museo Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Tate Modern and the Milton Keynes Gallery in London, Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro in Milan and the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

Works on display

Susana Solano Barcelona, 1942

La Caritat, n.º 3 1986-1987

Iron and wood
Donated by Bergé y Cía., S. A. in 2024

The title of the work alludes to Barcelona’s Casa de Caritat, a building that used to house a charity that was the site of the celebrated international artists’ workshop, Art Triangle, before it became the Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona. Led by the sculptor Anthony Caro, the Art Triangle project summoned twenty-five painters and sculptors, including Susana Solano, who used different spaces in the building as a studio. La Caritat was made there with iron and wood, the former wrapped around the latter as if it were armour protecting the more fragile and vulnerable material from the outside world.

Cristina Iglesias San Sebastián, 1956

Untitled, No. 389 1990

Cement fibre, aluminium and Perspex
Donated by Bergé y Cía., S. A. in 2024

The use of materials like concrete, alabaster, steel, resin, iron and glass—sometimes all used together in a single work—is a hallmark of the work of Iglesias, one of the most internationally renowned Spanish artists since the mid-1980s. Her sculptures betray a special interest in space and architecture and have often taken the form of walls, hallways or walkways which delimit or demarcate one zone among them: places built on a human scale that prompt in spectators the desire to enter them.

Jonathan Borofsky Boston, Massachussetts, 1942

Counting (3, 326, 754-3, 326, 760) 1990

Steel wire
Donated by Bergé y Cía., S. A. in 2024.

Borofsky compares the mental exercise of counting numbers, which he does compulsively every day, with meditation, as it enables him to focus on something small along with its expansion towards the infinite. Here, a series of figures fashioned with wire are arranged on the wall in a strict arithmetic sequence. The precision and exactness of the numbers contrast with the apparently random way the material was used, resulting in imprecise, wobbly shapes. A sculptor and painter, Borofsky earned a name for himself on New York’s art scene in the mid-1970s and has been world renowned primarily for his large public sculptures since the late 1990s.

Vik Muniz Sao Paulo, Brasil, 1961

Richard Serra, Prop, 1968 (Picture of Dust) 2000

Impression on silver
Edition 8/10
Donated by Bergé y Cía., S. A. in 2024

This work belongs to a series that Muniz made based on old photographs of minimalist sculptures conserved in the archive of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The title of the complete series, Pictures of Dust, alludes to the way it was created: the artist used the dust collected from the museum’s vacuums to painstakingly replicate those archival images, which he then photographed. Muniz chose an ephemeral, residual material like dust in contrast to the smooth, perfect surfaces of the powerful minimalist sculpture. In this photograph, he recreates a lead sculpture by Richard Serra from 1968, Prop.

Diango Hernández Sancti Spíritus, Cuba, 1970

Untitled 2005

Electric pole, cable and vinyl records
Donated by Bergé y Cía., S. A. in 2024

Reusing everyday objects and artifacts is a common practice in these sculptures of this Cuban artist living in Düsseldorf (Germany) since 2003, whose works explore topics related to history and politics, identity and memory. In this work, he reuses an old wooden electric pole with its cables, insulators and crossheads, as well as several vinyl records inserted into the cracks in the material caused by weathering and the lack of use. The piece alludes to the strategic electrification campaigns held in the former Soviet Union to carry its political propaganda to the furthermost places.

Ibon Aranberri Deba, Gipuzkoa, 1969

Ornate and rigid (galvanized) 2007

Galvanised steel
Donated by Bergé y Cía., S. A. in 2024

The language of power and its representation, as well as other issues related to the political, artistic and social context of the Basque Country—and its collective imaginary—are all found in Aranberri’s projects. His works also go beyond the boundaries and formats traditionally associated with sculpture, his main artistic practice. Here, like parts of a whole that has shattered, two large metal structures lie on the ground, resembling a fallen obelisk. Brilliant and spotless, the work has numerous holes and perforations that reduce its matter but do not detract from its robustness and visual forcefulness.

Richard Artschwager Washington, D.C., 1923-Albany, Nueva York, 2013

Double Speaker 1966

Formica on wood
Bergé Collection. Acquired in 2023

A sculptor, painter, illustrator and graphic designer, Artschwager was one of the most influential artists in the second half of the twentieth century. He made works that seemed non-artistic, in which their creator’s hand or sign was omitted. He also used industrial materials that were new at the time—aluminium, steel, plywood, fluorescent lights, synthetic leather—to challenge the conventions of painting and sculpture. In this piece, which schematically represents a double speaker, he uses Formica, an innocuous material imitating wood which is used massively by industry to manufacture objects and furnishings for the working class.