banner NB 1010x4003








Nestor Basterretxea




2020.03.06 - 2020.10.12


Curator: Peio Aguirre


 © Nestor Basterretxea, VEGAP, Donostia / San Sebatián, 2020

     Esku-jokoa - Juego de manos, c. 1956


Nestor Basterretxea was a prolific artist who practised all the arts with the determination of an inheritor of modernity. Although he started out as a painter, his move to sculpture in 1960 forged a sculptor’s identity for him. He was also a pioneer of Basque cinema, he practised industrial and graphic design, fantasized with impossible architectures, wrote and took quite a few photographs. His first contact with the photographic medium was in the 1940s in Buenos Aires to document early pictorial work.

Throughout his career he resorted to a considerable variety of types of photography: family photography, to depict his sculpture and that of others, for travelogues and reportages, recreational and studio photography, «experimental» photography in photograms, as a tool for ethnographical research, field work for documentaries —in particular the feature film Amalur [Mother Earth] (1966-1968), co-directed with Fernando Larruquert—, photography for publicity purposes (for the furniture company Biok, which he himself co-founded in Irun at that time), in collages and photomontages, etc. Without systematizing any of these types, he delved into all of them establishing stylistic patterns, bonds between form and content.

The same heterogeneity in which he participated in art is manifested in the diversity of the technical medium. The result of this concern for the technical image —in the course of over sixty years— is a vast photographic collection in various formats that the artist built up over his lifetime. Most of the photographs in this exhibition are unpublished and date back to the 1960s (between 1960 and 1974), when the artist lived on the Avenida de Francia in Irun, in the house-cum-workshop shared with Jorge Oteiza.

A pronounced, repeated characteristic fully immerses us in one of the hallmarks of Basterretxea’s gaze: the mise en scène of sculptures, objects and sitters in stark contrast between light and shade. «The boldness of the light against the modesty of the shade». In these images the depiction gradually emerges out of a darkened background. The sources of natural or artificial light are the essential component in these mises en scène of faces and forms. Here there is an aesthetic, photographic equivalence between an abstract sculpture, Romanesque monuments or the faces of a woman and a child. Basterretxea projects this gaze on his own works as well as on mundane objects —still lifes with glass tumblers and jugs, fruit, crafts— and also on sculpture by artist friends. To these images are added others of an «experimental» type, photograms and «rayograms», and also photomontages in which he recycles his own sculptural work.

This exhibition traces a heterogeneous tour of numerous uses of the photographic medium. The exhibition consists of three connected parts: 1. An initial investigation into the photographic collection at the Idurmendieta farmhouse in Hondarribia and the resulting presentation of a selection of prints. 2. The producing of a documentary/audiovisual essay on the basis of that investigation into documentary images. 3. The incorporation of unpublished film footage in Super 8 which was recorded by the artist over time.




 nestorbasterretxeaNESTOR BASTERRETXEA (Bermeo, 1924)

From twelve years of age, he lived in France for five years and eleven in Argentina.

In Buenos Aires he specialised in advertising and studied construction engineering at university.

In 1950, an individual exhibition in Sala Peuser, Buenos Aires. He took part in collective exhibitions in Argentina and Uruguay.

On his return to Spain in 1952, he won the mural competition for the crypt in Aránzazu. In 1956 he created murals in the Universidad Laboral in Tarragona.

In 1957, an individual exhibition in Sala Negra, Madrid. Co-founder of Equipo 57.

In 1958, he was member of the team that wont he competition for the Spanish Pavilion in the International Expo of Brussels.

Worked as a designer in H Muebles, Madrid.

In 1960, he exhibited together with Jorge Oteiza in Sala Neblí, Madrid. At the end of the 1950s he set up in Avenida de Francia (Irun) in a house-study he shared with Oteiza. He founded the company Biok in Irun, for the production of furniture of modern design.

In 1963 he directed his first short film, Operación H. This was followed by Pelotari (1964), Alquezar (1966) and Amalur  [Madre Tierra] en 1968, films he co-directed with Fernando Larruquert. From 1973 to 1975 he created sculptures in the Serie Cosmogónica Vasca.

In 1987 the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid dedicated an anthological exhibition to him.

Since 1966 he has created a number of emblematic public sculptures, for example Homenaje al bailarín Iztueta (1967), Araba / Homenaje a Pío Baroja (1972), Homenaje a los marineros muertos en el mar (1973); Paloma de la paz (1988), Arriarán Dam (1993). In 1983 he made Izaro, a sculpture that is the symbol of the Basque Parliament in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

In 2006 he published his memoirs: Crónica errante y una miscelánea (Alberdania).

In 2013 the retrospective exhibition Forma y universe was held in the Fine Arts Museum of Bilbao.

He died on 12 July 2014. 







Talk by Peio Aguirre

12th May at 7.00pm

Sala Ruiz Balerdi (level 4 Tabakalera)

Context and aesthetics in the photographic view of Nestor Basterretxea. Peio Aguirre, curator of the exhibition.

In Spanish / Free entrance subject to capacity.




© Nestor Basterretxea, VEGAP, Donostia / San Sebatián, 2020. Heldulekuak. Manivelas Biok, Irun  c. 19b8







Price: € 25 (TAX included)