The museum and its surroundings

artium museoa el museo y su entorno1

Artium Museoa, Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basque Country opened its doors in April 2002. It has since then been a leading centre in the field of contemporary art in Spain, unequalled because of its heritage collection of more than 2,700 works produced by such major contemporary artists as Jorge Oteiza, Néstor Sanmiguel Diest, Elena Asins, Ángeles Marco, Dora García, Miquel Barceló, Juan Luis Moraza, Juan Muñoz, June Crespo, Ignasi Aballí, María Luisa Fernández and Cristina Iglesias.

Next to the medieval centre of Vitoria-Gasteiz, with a surface area of 13,000 m2, almost 75% of which is situated below street level, the building is organised around and below an inner courtyard where the museum’s garden, Lorategi, is located.

Only two of the building’s volumes can be seen: a large white concrete cube stripped of its architectural cladding in order to reduce it to pure raw nature, and a second grey granite volume that rises from the surface to outline the inner courtyard.

A tour through the museum’s galleries, located below street level, reveals its collection and exhibitions.

Together with the Montehermoso Culture Centre and the Playing Cards, Archaeology and Natural History museums, all situated within the Medieval Quarter, Artium Museoa also forms part of the city's cultural axis. Just a five-minute walk from St. Mary's Cathedral.

The Museum stands on a trapezoidal, almost rectangular square, edged by the following streets: Francia, La Paloma, La Esperanza and Prudencio María Verástegui.

The Museum's architect, José Luis Catón, opted to create a large, open space for public use. As in the 18th-century Plaza de España and the Plaza de la Provincia, this would provide the inhabitants of the densely populated city centre with a place for relaxation and social intercourse.

On the oter hand, this huge public space allows Artium to exhibit some of the most important works of the collection.

The passer-by can find here, in constant dialogue, three sculptures by three of the greatest artists of XX Century: Richard Serra (Finkl Octagon, 1991), Jorge Oteiza (Mirador mirando, 1958) and Eduardo Chillida (Elogio de la Arquitectura XIV, 1994). The place also houses a big work by Vicente Larrea (Broca kenkenes, 1976) and a monumental sculpture by Miquel Navarro (La mirada, 2001). The courtyard has also been home to four sculptures by Néstor Basterretxea since 2022. Conceived by the sculptor in the 1960-61 and made of iron and weathering steel, these polychrome pieces were previously in the garden of the Idurmendieta farmhouse in Jaizubia, Hondarribi, which had been the artist’s studio and home until his death in 2014. On loan from the sculptor’s family and subjected to a detailed restoration process, the works belong to a transcendental period in Néstor Basterretxea’s career, as he transitioned from painting to sculpture.

The building is arranged around and underneath this square: as in a winery, a large proportion of this building lies underground. To the West, a large white concrete cube frames the main entrance to the centre-museum and to a number of additional spaces and services: the main lobby, the Auditorium, the Plaza Gallery, the Cube Restaurant, the ticket office and cloakroom, among others.

In the main lobby, visitors' attention is divided between two works, the Mural cerámico by Joan Miró and Llorens Artigas and the monumental sculpture Un Pedazo de Cielo Cristalizado, by Javier Pérez. The anteroom of the museum, which provides access to the galleries, is situated seven metres below ground level.

To the right and left, one finds the entrances into the A0, a1 and A2 Galleries that lie under the square and communicate with two more galleries, A3 and A4 Galleries, forming a kind of "U".

On ground level once more, situated over the A3 and A4 Galleries, there is a grey granite building that closes off one side of the square and contains the didactic and image workshops, the Library and Documentation Centre, and the administrative services of the museum.

Artium. The buiilding (book) 

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