The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao presents Riotous Baroque. From Cattelan to Zurbarán – Tributes to Precarious Vitality an exhibition co-organized with the Kunsthaus Zürich and curated by Bice Curiger.
The show – previously hosted at the Kunsthaus from June 1 to September 2, 2012 – consists of more than one hundred works by great 17th-century masters such as Pieter Aertsen, Giovanni Battista Langetti, Alessandro Magnasco, José de Ribera, Jan Steen, David Teniers the Younger, Simon Vouet, and Francisco de Zurbarán and those of renowned contemporary creators like Maurizio Cattelan, Robert Crumb, Urs Fischer, Glenn Brown, Tobias Madison, Paul McCarthy, and Cindy Sherman, among others.
Thanks to the arrangement inspired by cinematographic montage techniques that invites us to look back at history from a contemporary perspective, the visitors will be able to explore a wide range of popular Baroque themes such as earthiness, coarseness, religiosity, and sensuality, the grotesque, the burlesque, and the virile from multiple angles.
As stated by the curator, Bice Curiger, the exhibition does not seek to “host a festival of masterpieces,” nor does it attempt to “proclaim a neo-Baroque stylistic tendency”; it rather aims to bring an art separated from us by several centuries into the world of the comprehensible, the world of experience. The concept of the Baroque is here disconnected from its conventional stylistic clichés such as pomp, rich ornament, or gold and instead focusing on the Baroque as a “tribute to precarious vitality”: the riotous yet uncertain nature of existence; the Baroque, usually associated with dynamism, sensuality, extravagance, and theatricality in dialogue with contemporary art pieces proves to be an age of instability, marking the collapse of an established order.
In addition to pieces from Kunsthaus Zürich, the show features loans from some of Europe’s leading Old Masters museums, such as the Museo de Bellas Artes of Bilbao, the Prado Museum, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. The exhibition also includes a number of invaluable works from private collections.
Looking back at history from a contemporary perspective, Riotous Baroque eludes the most obvious thematic or formal analogies, opting to present baroque and contemporary works within an installation influenced by film, designed to enable the two realities, past and present, with all their differences and affinities, in order to cross-fertilize, permeate, and invite new interpretations.