Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Acquires Seminal Series by Cy Twombly

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Acquires Seminal Series by Cy Twombly


(January 26, 2007) Guggenheim Museum Bilbao announced a major acquisition for its permanent collection: Cy Twombly’s Discourse on Commodus, a series composed of nine paintings from 1963. Discourse on Commodus was created in Rome during a seminal period in the artist’s career when he had begun to develop a more subjective visual language that incorporated snatches of text and elusive signs and symbols. In the ambitiously conceived Commodus canvases, Twombly chronicles the decline of the Roman Empire, as personified by the megalomania of the Emperor Aurelius Commodus (AD 161–192), whose tyranny, vanity, and self-delusion decimated the stability of the state and led him to a brutal public death. As expressed by curator Linda Norden, “Discourse on Commodus captures, more than any other work within his extensive oeuvre, not only the ambition, scope, intelligence and acute sensitivity to ‘what painting can contain,’ that has distinguished Twombly’s radical investigation of the medium, but the extent to which his vision for the medium has regularly outpaced its reception.” In his entry for the catalogue raisonné of Twombly’s paintings, Heiner Bastian reads the Commodus cycle as a commentary on the “contrast of creative and destructive forces” and of “creativity heightened to the majesty of atrocity,” all of which are embodied in the outrageously indulgent and tragic life of Commodus.


Discourse on Commodus is an important addition to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s growing permanent collection of painting, sculpture, and multimedia works. In 2005 the museum commissioned seven monumental sculptures from Richard Serra, which he joined with his existing work Snake (1994–97) to create The Matter of Time, a site-specific installation of a scale and ambition unparalleled in the history of modern art. In 2006 the museum acquired Jeff Koons’s Tulips, a sculpture of color-coated stainless-steel tulip-shaped balloons, from the artist’s Celebration series.


In celebration of its tenth anniversary, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has commissioned French artist Daniel Buren to create a site-specific work that uses the La Salve Bridge, adjacent to the museum, as support. Buren was selected from a competition that included Liam Gillick and Jenny Holzer. The work, entitled “Going through,” A Sculpture in situ, was conceived to transform the structure of the bridge by softening the harsh contrast generated between the H-like arch of the bridge and curved forms of the museum building. The artist plans to cover the arch with a bright red structure to bring it into chromatic connection with the museum, with the bridge’s profile marked by Buren’s characteristic black and white strips. The work will be unveiled in October 2007.


The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Since its grand opening in October 1997, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has hosted nearly 100 exhibitions, many of which have ranked among the most visited worldwide, including: RUSSIA!, Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons, and Calder: Gravity and Grace. Additional critically acclaimed exhibitions include: The Worlds of Nam June Paik, Richard Serra, The Panza Collection at the Guggenheim Museums, and Moving Pictures. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao collection comprises close to 90 works that complement the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s collections, and includes site-specific and outdoor installations by Jenny Holzer (Installation for Bilbao, 1997), Jeff Koons (Puppy, 1992), and Louise Bourgeois (Maman, 1999). To date, the museum has attracted over 9,000,000 visitors, around 60 percent of which were foreign visitors, and its presence has generated almost 1.6 billion euro GDP.


The Basque Country and the City of Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is the result of a unique collaboration between the Basque authorities and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The museum is the cornerstone of the redevelopment of Bilbao, which has entailed major architectural projects by some of the most renowned architects in the world, including Norman Foster, Arata Isozaki, Zaha Hadid, and Santiago Calatrava. Bilbao, capital of Bizkaia, is in the Basque Country, with more than one million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. It is the fourth largest city in Spain and one of the most important ports in Europe.

January 26, 2007

Betsy Ennis
Guggenheim Public Affairs

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