CHILLIDA LEKU

WEBSITE: www.museochillidaleku.com
LOCATION: Jauregi Bailara, 66, 20120 Hernani, Gipuzkoa, Spain
NEAREST AIRPORTS: Bilbao Airport, 1 hour drive
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In the 1980s, Spanish artist Eduardo Chillida and his wife Pilar Belzunce bought a caserío (traditional Basque country farm house) and surrounding land on the outskirts of San Sebastián. The farm house, which was in a desperate state of disrepair, dated from the 16th century and Chillida would spend the next 15 years carefully and lovingly restoring it.

He never lived in it but used it as a studio with the adjoining land serving as an outdoor viewing space for his sculptures where they could be showcased and sold. Chillida didn’t cast his sculptures (apart from a few, to Chillida’s horror, and at the request of his dealer) so his sculptures are unique pieces. He would create the works and then place them in the garden, agonising over the positioning of the works. He would often be so exhilarated by the position of the works that he would ultimately refuse to sell the pieces, insisting that they had found a harmony with the surrounding.

And so Chillida Leku grew into an artist museum, almost accidentally. The property has been recently renovated with the support of uber gallery Hauser and Wirth, under the tasteful direction of atchitects Luis Laplace, who have added a small restaurant and shop, making Chillida Leku an easy and enjoyable day out, where all your needs are catered to. What I learnt on my visit to Chillida Leku (apart from reinforcing my admiration for this brilliant artist), was how profoundly religious he was. His sculptures balance on three points, referencing the holy trinity, and the interplay of light, especially in his alabaster works, is entirely un-accidental, but purposeful with religious fervor.

He was also very influenced by the Greeks, so much so that he banned himself from even so much as looking at a Grecian sculpture for 12 years in a brain-cleanse as he tried to realise his own style, free from reference to his predecessors. Instead, he looked to the beauty in nature for inspiration, and found that the flaws and imperfections of nature is where true perfection lay. If you look carefully at his work, you will discover that he never used right angles, though it would seem that right angles dominate his work. They are always just over or just lacking of the 90 degrees. The love of imperfect nature is what lead him to chisel through this seemingly imperfect piece of alabaster in the image above.

As artists often do, Chillida was looking for more space and had created an environment that now, luckily, is open and available for all to come and enjoy. The gardens and house are packed with ideas and sculptures, but don’t feel guilty if you just want to slowly walk around and enjoy the views and weather. It is what makes the trip to Chillida Leku sincerely memorable.