Guggenheim Bilbao

Antoni Tàpies: From Object to Sculpture

Grace Piney

The first large-scale display of Tàpies’s sculptures and objects covers nearly five decades.


Towards the end of this year, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao will hold a major retrospective of the work of the Catalan sculptor Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona, 1923-2012), an event that has aroused high expectations among art lovers.

The exhibition titled From Object to Sculpture, is the first large-scale display of Tàpies‘s sculptures and objects from his entire career, and covers nearly five decades, from the 1960s to the present.


The ideas of assemblage and collage are present all over his work. He combines opposing elements, sometimes only conceptually, to convey a particular point of view; such is the case of La Butaca (The Armchair) (1987), which serves as presentation and preview of his exhibition. The viewer sees a black leather armchair that promises great comfort; it appears to be old, which conjures the idea of softness and relaxation, but nothing could be further from reality. It is an object-sculpture made of painted bronze.

According to the Guggenheim Bilbao the exhibition will present “a wide variety of media and materials, exploring Tàpies’s thematic, conceptual and chronological continuity in the production of sculptures and objects, and offering new readings and perspectives on this artist’s influence on the art of his time”.

ANTONI TÀPIES. La butaca, 1987.

Tàpies’s work falls within the category of European tachismo, which is synonymous with American abstract expressionism, a style that includes the application of layers of stains and the accumulation of textures. Another characteristic of his work is the use of materials that traditionally were not used in painting until the advent of modernity and later postmodernism, such as ropes, newspapers and mud. The intention is to reflect on the possibility of transformation and elevation of simple everyday things.

The work of the Catalan artist has been exhibited in the most important museums of the world, and in significant venues for the presentation of modern and contemporary art. A special collection is permanently displayed in Barcelona at the foundation that bears his name, created by the artist to promote contemporary art.

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Antoni Tàpies is one of the most recognized Spanish artists of the 20th century. The beauty of his art ensures him passage to posterity. However, if he should be forgotten, his words will come back in 2022: in 2007 he left a “shielded” message inside a time capsule at the Cervantes Institute in Madrid… but it will not be opened until the year 2022.

The retrospective From Object to Sculpture will available to the public at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao from October 4, 2013 to January 19, 2014. But for those who cannot wait until fall, the Antoni Tàpies Foundation and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), are currently showing From the Inside, from June 21 to November 3, 2013, featuring nearly 140 works from the artist’s studio and from the permanent collection of the Antoni Tàpies Foundation.

La butaca.


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