Iberdrola-Museum Conservation and Restoration 2022 Programme - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum


2023-03-27 • 2023-10-16

Iberdrola-Museum Conservation and Restoration 2022 Programme

Restored works exposition

The main goals of the Iberdrola-Museum Conservation and Restoration Programme take shape in three spheres of action. The first aims to conserve and restore the museum’s collection to ensure its material integrity and proper public display, and to systematically contribute to research on the works. The treatments applied always reflect innovation and sustainability criteria and respect the technical and material uniqueness of each work. Secondly, it seeks to guarantee the conservation of works lent to the museum by other institutions and collections which are temporarily exhibited or stored in our facilities. The last but no less important goal is to make a practical contribution to training professionals qualified in all the museographic disciplines related to art conservation and restoration via the annual call for applications for our two Iberdrola-Museum grants since 2014. Thus, in 2022, the programme benefitted from the contributions of the grant recipients Laura Casaus and Elvira Moratinos (2021-2022 grants) and Marina Aguiar and Eva González (2022-2023) grants. 

With these shared goals in mind, since 2013 the Iberdrola-Museum Programme partnership has made it possible to approach the entire conservation and restoration process of a selection of artworks in the museum’s collection and others from different sources that are participating in the temporary exhibitions comprehensively—from the preliminary analyses and technical studies to the final treatment. 

The results of the 2022 campaign are now being shared with the public in the museum’s rooms. 

The most noteworthy treatments in last year’s edition were those applied to the installation Solid Square No. 2 (1981) and the works that are part of the Txomin Badiola Donation, as well as the painting Nude under the Vine (c. 1909-1910) by Hermen Anglada Camarasa (Barcelona, 1871-Puerto de Pollença, Mallorca, 1959) and Vital Action. Homage to our Ancestors by José Antonio Sistiaga (San Sebastián, 1932), as well as the major treatment applied to five drawings on paper using different techniques by Julio González (Barcelona, 1876-Arcueil, France, 1942). 

Txomin Badiola Donation. Minimalism 

Along with the remade version of Solid Square No. 2, an early Badiola installation which entered the museum 40 years ago, we are now presenting an important set of sculptures (4) and drawings (18) which the artist recently donated. Of the four sculptures, two were restored after they entered the museum (Untitled, 1979, and Black Series No. 5, 1981), while Badiola has recrafted the other two (Architectures and Black Series no. 8, both from 1981). The extensive set of works on paper received new mountings and frames, and two of them (Fountain and Untitled, from 1980-1981) underwent a specific restoration process. A selection of these works is now being exhibited in room 7 in a display that presents the donation within the context of the Iberdrola-Museum Conservation and Restoration Programme, with the added interest of showing examples of works that have been recrafted or refurbished through conservation and restoration treatments of contemporary art with the participation of the artist himself.  

Along with Ángel Bados, Juan Luis Moraza, María Luisa Fernández and Pello Irazu, Txomin Badiola (Bilbao, 1957) is one of the representatives of what is known as the New Basque Sculpture. After finishing his Fine Arts degree at the University of the Basque Country with a specialisation in painting, his work in the 1980s revolved around sculpture and was heavily influenced by Oteiza. He participated in creating EAE (Euskal Artisten Elkartea), a collective that made actions with artistic-political significance. He won the Gure Artea award in 1986 and the Delfina Foundation grant the following year, which enabled him to move to London and later New York. From then on, his work departed from the formalism of Basque sculpture from that time and added more narrative industrial materials, photography and video installations. Today he is one of the Basque artists with the greatest international fame. 

Hall, first floor - Finished exhibition

Camarasa (Barcelona, 1871-Puerto de Pollença, Mallorca, 1959)

Nude Under the Vine , c. 1909-1910

Oil on canvas. 140 x 85 cm
Contributed by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia in 1920

Camarasa painted this nude during his stint in Paris, when his colours blossomed thanks to his contact with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, among other influences. He thus went beyond mere folklore in the way he treated his Valencian and gypsy themes, endowing them symbolic and expressionist values. This sensual work was acquired by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia at the First International Painting and Sculpture Exhibition held in Bilbao in September 1919, one decade after it was painted.


Una vez concluidos los estudios técnicos realizados a esta pintura, se inició la intervención con el Treatment del barniz oxidado, los retoques y estucos antiguos mediante procesos químicos. Estabilizado el material pictórico, se continuó con la corrección de deformaciones del soporte. Para finalizar la restauración se procedió al estucado, la reintegración cromática y la aplicación de un barniz de bajo peso molecular.

Desnudo bajo la parra, c. 1909-1910

Room 6 - Finished exhibition

González(Barcelona, 1876-Arcueil, France, 1942)

Five drawings, 1928-1942

Drawings of peasant women and other female figures
Different techniques on paper
Donated by Viviane Grimminger in 1999

These sketches are part of the museum's extensive collection of this artist's works on paper. They feature drawings of peasant women, female nudes and portraits, all part of his common iconographic repertoire. They date from a transitional period between cubism and abstraction, when González had already achieved the formal synthesis that he later captured in sculptures like Woman Known as 'The Three Pleats', which is also displayed in this room.


The treatment of these five drawings made with different techniques—pencil, ink, Indian ink, wash—consisted in eliminating the tape on the back and mechanically cleaning the surface dirt on both front and back. A small tear and a corner of the support that was broken were repaired in Woman with Stick. Finally, they were given a conservation-grade mounting in neutral cardboard folders.

Room 7

Badiola(Bilbao, 1957)

Solid Square No. 2, 1981

Ten units of painted wood and nine drawings on cardboard
Acquired in 1983

This installation, which is representative of Badiola's first works in the field of minimalism and conceptual art, joined the museum at an early date. He uses it to speculate on the condition of the object presented: it includes ten specific boards and nine drawings which describe the piece as if it were a sculptural construction, while simultaneously contradicting this description with the presence of the word 'PINTURA' (painting). Badiola later evolved towards more constructive works with installations using a variety of techniques, media and configurations.


The installation's treatment was defined in conjunction with the artist, who also participated throughout the entire process. The wooden pieces were remade, both the supports and the paint. The drawings on cardboard and their secondary okoumé supports were treated with mechanical cleaning, the elimination of adhesives and a new conservation-grade mounting and framing.

Room 7

Badiola(Bilbao, 1957)

Untitled, 1979
Black Series No. 5, 1981
Architectures, 1981
Black Series No. 8, 1981

Donated by the artist in 2022

Apart from Solid Square No. 2, very few of Badiola’s early works still survive because of a flood in his studio in Uribitarte (Bilbao) in the late 1980s. Four of the works made on wooden boards dating from 1979 to 1981 are now part of the museum’s collection thanks to the artist’s recent donation, a gesture of extraordinary generosity that is essential in learning about Badiola’s aesthetic inquiries in the early 1980s, which are impossible to find on the market today. Along with these works, the donation also included 18 drawings using different techniques (graphite, collage or gouache on paper or cardboard) from the series Architectures, Boards and Minimal, some of which are related to the sculptures. All these works on paper were given new mountings and frames, and two of them (Fountain and Untitled, from 1980-1981) underwent a specific restoration process. 

Hall Pedro de Icaza y Aguirre Hall - Finished exhibition

Arrue (Blbao, 1878-1944)

Portrait of a Lady

Oil on canvas
Donated by the Roda-Arrue family, in memory of Resu Arrue, in 2014

A woman coiffed and dressed in 1920s fashion is probably walking along the banks of the Nervión River, with the large steamship in the background conferring a keen sense of modernity. The museum has a watercolour sketch with this composition and two graphite drawings of the woman and the boat made on grids that the painter must have used to transfer them to the canvas. Alberto Arrue—the eldest of four brothers who were all artists—was the first president of the Association of Basque Artists. He painted Basque themes and made illustrations, engravings, theatre sets and outstanding portraits.


After a detailed study of the work that revealed changes in the composition, the support and paint layer were treated. The deformations and tears on the canvas were corrected, along with the structural problems of the stretcher. Later, the paint surface was cleaned to eliminate stains and drips that made it difficult to interpret.

Room 19 - Finished exhibition

Sistiaga (San Sebastián, 1932)

Vital Action. Homage to our Ancestors, 1970

Oil on canvas.. 200 x 322,2 cm
Acquired in 1979

The artist's spontaneous gesture and his physical action when executing this large, luminous painting are the hallmarks of Sistiaga's work during the 1970s, when he was interested in the more gestural side of informalism. Free of any rationalism, the painter confronted the blank canvas without any preconceived ideas and allowed himself to be led by chance, as in musical improvisation, in a working process that includes the quick application of colour and the use of expressive brushstrokes to represent that movement.


The treatment began on the paint surface with an aqueous solution applied with a swab to remove a surface layer that was darkening and altering the colour. Funori, a polysaccharide sulphate extracted from the Gloiopeltis furcata algae, was used to consolidate the paint in combination with the controlled application of moisture, pressure and temperature. The small losses and fissures, primarily located around the edges, were also filled in and reintegrated.