On 10 January 2024 it has been 100 years since the birth of Eduardo Chillida, one of the most universal and influential European artists of the 20th century. With deep roots in the Basque Country, his hands embraced the horizons of the whole world and transformed them into unique places for the encounter of society.
Chillida was born on January 10, 1924 in Donostia – San Sebastián. His first exhibition was held in Paris in 1950, when he married Pilar Belzunce, a lifelong partner. His work is present in dozens of public and private museums and institutions around the world, with retrospective exhibitions held in Houston and Berlin, Madrid and Caracas, London and Palermo.
His monumental sculptures can be found in front of the sea, as in Donostia-San Sebastián, or in cities such as Washington, Paris, Lund, Munster, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Gernika-Guernica or Berlin. His work has been written by architects such as Juan Daniel Fullaondo, critics such as Peter Selz or James Johnson Sweeney, philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and Emil Cioran, or poets such as Octavio Paz.
“I am one of those who think, and it is very important to me, that men are from somewhere. The ideal is that we come from one place, that we have roots in one place but that our arms reach everyone, that the ideas of any culture are worth us. All places are perfect for what is appropriate to them and I here, in my Basque Country, feel in my place, like a tree that is suitable for their territory, in their land, but with the arms open to everyone…”
He received a wide variety of awards throughout his life: from the Venice Biennale to Kandinsky, from Wilhem Lehmbruck to the Prince of Asturias, from the German Kaiserring to the Imperial Prize in Japan. His work and figure continue to be recognized and celebrated around the world with anthological exhibitions in Florida, Amsterdam or New York and with awards and posthumous publications such as The Order of Constitutional Merit in Madrid or Homage to Chillida (Bilbao: Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, 2006)
In 2023 began the celebration of the centenary, a commemoration promoted by the Eduardo Chillida – Pilar Belzunce Foundation, an important occasion to disseminate not only his work, but also his values, sensitivity and contributions to the history of contemporary art.
Founded in life by the artist himself, ‘Chillida Leku’ is the place where the artist’s most comprehensive and representative body of work is founded. It is located on the outskirts of Hernani, very close to Donostia – San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa), and consists of an outdoor sculpture area and an exhibition space inside the house of Zabalaga, a traditional Basque building built in the 16th century.
The mansion and its adjacent land were acquired in the 1980s from its former owner, Santiago Churruca, by Eduardo Chillida and his wife Pilar Belzunce, who personally restored and conditioned them for more than fifteen years. That first rehabilitation project was carried out in close collaboration with the Basque architect Joaquín Montero, who helped them to materialize a highly personal vision of the exhibition space. The sculptor was looking for a home for his works – a “place” (in Basque language, lek) – where future generations could know and experience his art in an unparalleled location.