The legacy of an artist frequently becomes a source of conflict. Sometimes because the wishes of the deceased do not coincide with those of the inheritors; other times because the legatees quarrel for possession of artworks or for the right to decide where these go; still others because the bequeather did not properly or thoroughly stipulate how the inheritance would be managed, and how the profits it yielded would be divided. A case in point is Chillida-Leku, the dream of the great Basque artist Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002), which suffered the consequences of a conflict among the heirs, gallery owners, and public administrations, to the point that it was shut down for ten of its eighteen years of life. Inaugurated in 2001 as one of Europe’s most unique open-air sculpture museums, Chillida-Leku was forced to close its doors a decade later, and it took until 2017 for an agreement to be reached – between the Chillida family and the Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth – that has enabled the institution to reopen this past April.
So it is that we can once again visit this work of total art of primitivist reminiscences, not far from the town of Hernani, with its 40 large sculptures made of an essential material (iron, steel, and granite) and arranged on an exquisite green carpet of 11 hectares dotted with poplar, oak, and beech trees. Completing the museum are 50 medium and small pieces housed in the Zabalaga manor house, which Chillida himself transformed into a skeleton of stone, wood, and glass, in itself a work of art.