If you are visiting Bilbao between June and September, you can’t miss this meeting with hyperrealistic art. Escultura Hiperrealista 1973-2016 is an amazing exhibition opening today at Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao with a selection of 34 sculptures by 26 of the most representative artists of this movement. This is the biggest and most complete exhibition on hyperrealism so far, and visitors will be able to see artworks by the likes of American pioneers George Segal, Duane Hanson and John DeAndrea or the disseminators of the movement like Juan Muñoz, Maurizio Cattelan, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Ron Mueck, Sam Jinks, Patricia Piccinini or Evan Penny. We talked to Otto Letze, curator of the exhibition, to know more about it.
From the ‘70s, we find a will to represent humankind in a completely realistic way. How was this necessity born, and why do you think it's still so relevant?
The will to represent the human figure as realistic as possible looks back to a tradition as old as human civilization itself. Considerable numbers of archaeological findings dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. are witnessing the living tradition of polychrome sculptures. During Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquity and again in the middle ages and during renaissance, different techniques were developed in order to create a convincing visual illusion of human physicality.
In the later course of art history the realistic style has been frequently pushed back – same in painting and even clearer in the fields of sculpture. During romanticism, 19th century realism or new objectivity, artists always returned to a realistic style, though. It seems that in times of great upheavals by means of war or rapid progress, the realistic depiction was always a preferred visual vocabulary. In the last decades, humanity experienced the strong impact of genetic modification and virtual reality but also national unrest and forces of nature. Therefore, the hyperrealistic movement could be considered as a representative of the current zeitgeist mirroring the human condition of our society.
What will visitors be able to see in Bilbao?
The exhibition is the first one worldwide to give a profound insight into the development of the hyperrealistic approach towards the human figure. The visitors will be able to encounter a broad range of international positions of this complex art movement. The selection of artworks includes all important representatives of the hyperrealistic movement starting with the early American pioneers like George Segal, Duane Hanson and John DeAndrea. Many American, European and Australian artists continued to work in this tradition and created their own individual style. The exhibition includes a balanced selection of works by artists well-known to the European public and also such visitors will be able to see for the first time.
3 Hanson Two Workers.jpg
The exhibition is a large panoramic, with 36 sculptures by almost 26 artists. How was such an ambitious project conceived, and how did you make it happen?
Indeed, bringing together such a comprehensive selection of works located all around the world needed time and depended mainly on the support of the many art collectors, museum collections and artists that kindly made available their precious pieces of art presented in the show. The artworks are coming from many different countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain and many other European countries, and are meeting each other in Bilbao for the first time in this constellation. Together with the colleagues from Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, a team of three professionals of the Institute for Cultural Exchange has been working on this project for more than one year. To make this major survey dedicated to hyperrealistic art possible, the Institute for Cultural Exchange could relay on its huge network of more than 500 international museums and collections.
The exhibition will be divided in five sections to understand different approaches. Can you talk a little bit about this structure?
The exhibition is revealing five different key issues in the approach towards the depiction of figural realism in order to emphasize how the way we see our bodies has been subject to constant change. The five groups represented in the exhibition are exploring the different ways international artists have been and are still using the hyperrealistic effect. While the early representatives were focused on the lifelike appearance by preserving the actual human form, later artists started to treat the body in a more sculptural way and used only separated parts like heads or legs.
From the 1990s on, artists like Ron Mueck or later Sam Jinks started to alter the actual dimensions of the human body in order to reveal the psychological condition of the human mind. In the last decades, humanity experienced the strong impact of genetic modification and virtual reality. Those influences affected our views on being human. The last group shows artist deforming the human body. Especially innovations in the fields of science and digital media led to a radical change in the understanding of reality and had an impact on the works by artists like Evan Penny and Patricia Piccinini.
As curator of the exhibition, with what criteria did you choose the works that will be exposed in Bilbao? What brings in each of them? 
The striking characteristic of hyperrealistic artworks is that a convincing visual illusion of human physicality has been created. Therefore, we tried to gather works by the most important artists following this approach from the 1970s on. Important criteria were the striking use of innovative techniques utilized for the realistic rendering of the contours and textures of the human body or singular body parts. In order to give a broad insight into the many facets of hyperrealism, the artists that have been chosen are the ones who are following innovative paths in the treatment of the hyperrealistic effect. The selection furthermore includes works from many countries of the world and shows the multinational character of the movement.
Escultura Hiperrealista 1973-2016 will be on view at Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao until the 26th of September.
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19 Cattelan Ave Maria.jpg
23 Jinks Kneeling Woman A.jpg
34 Piccinini Newborn.jpg
18 Feuerman Generals Twin.jpg
32 Jones Refrigerator.jpg
10 Segal Standing Woman.jpg
24 Basheski Ordinary Man.jpg