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Fecha de publicación: 17/04/2008
Culture

Besides being the birthplace of great architects and sculptors, the Basque Country has also produced renowned writers in both Basque and Spanish, as well as some prolific thinkers. But perhaps the one common denominator to be found in the manifestations of Basque culture is the remarkable influence of their homeland on artists and authors alike.
This can be seen in the works of two of the best known Basque artists of the 20th century, Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Oteiza. A single sculpture by each artist is set opposite the other in San Sebastián’s La Concha bay, as if these works represented the meaning of and respect for the broad range of values coexisting in Basque society. Oteiza’s sculpture, called Empty Construction, was originally designed for the Sao Paulo Biennial 1957, while at the other end of the Bay, a visit to Chillida’s Comb of the Winds enables one to contemplate and comprehend one of the most memorable works by the author of the two iron hands symbolizing the reunification of Germany that today presides over the central offices of the German Government in Berlin.
In 1990, Eduardo Chillida started a foundation in Hernani, near San Sebastián, to exhibit his work in the Basque countryside. The museum, Txillida Leku, is set in 12 hectares of tree-studded land. ‘Txillida Leku’ is a genuinely timeless museum where visitors can contemplate in peace and tranquillity one hundred of the artist’s works.
Iron and stone, two typical elements of Basque life that the region’s culture has moulded and recast as a form of expression.
Instruments that arise out of the age-long tradition and which Basque culture has merged with the main creative currents of the Western world to continue evolving and growing.
A good example of this innovative spirit is the fabulous transformation now being wrought in the centre of Bilbao, paradigm of the industrial city just twenty years ago and which now, in 2004, has been awarded the prize for the best urban redevelopment project in the world at the Venice Biennial. The mutation of this provincial capital began in 1996 with the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, a stunning work built on old industrial land to US architect Frank Gehry’s revolutionary design. The opening of the Museum was in all senses the beginning of a new era: iron gave way to titanium.
This modernism is counterbalanced by the impressive medieval quarter of Vitoria, now declared a Monument Heritage Area, set on a steep hill that facilitated the city’s defence during its days of splendour. At the centre is the Gothic Cathedral of Santa María, from which irradiate longitudinal streets with names of crafts and trades linked by transversal cantons. The city has a number of other Gothic and Renaissance mansion houses, like Bendaña, now home to the Card Museum. Beyond the bounds of the mediaeval centre is Artium, the new Basque Museum of Contemporary Art, which has its own calendar of original temporary exhibitions, the result of internal research work and cooperation with other prestigious European museums.
Literature and film are also in the artistic vanguard. From Unamuno and Baroja to present-day writers like Bernando Atxaga and Unai Elorriaga, national literary prize-winners and masters of the expressive potential and solidity of Basque as a cultured language. Successful filmmakers include the box-office success story Alex de la Iglesia and the remarkable originality of Julio Medem.
But beyond art and literature, other cultural activities attract visitors to the Basque Country, such as the International Film Festival of San Sebastián and the summer Jazz Festivals that enliven the streets of Getxo, Vitoria and San Sebastián. Another major attraction is the San Sebastián Aquarium. The growing variety of species and the remarkable recreation of the marine environment make the Aquarium one of Spain’s finest maritime museums.
Traditional dance, musicians and poets are an intrinsic part of Basque culture, and are star features at many festivals. A number of local sports derive from traditional activities such as fishing, rowing, woodcutting and shepherding. These competitions, together with those of other sports such as Basque pelota, are held throughout the year in the towns and villages the Basque Country.
The contemporary Basque fashion world has also created its own style. Two Basques, Paco Rabanne and Cristóbal Balenciaga, eventually became great 20th century designers in their own right. Balenciaga’s work can be seen at the museum opened to his memory in his hometown of Guetaria.


 

Fuente: Presidency of the Government - General Secretariat for Communication

 



Related links
Basque National Archives System
Basque Symphonie Orchestra
Basque Music Archive
Monuments
Museums