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Preparations begin for Antonio López 

On 10 October, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Fundación BBK, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is to inaugurate Antonio López, a major retrospective exhibition of one of the living Spanish artists most admired and acclaimed by the public. With just two weeks before the exhibition closes at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, which has co-produced the show with the Bilbao museum, more than 250,000 people have visited the galleries of the museum in Madrid to view the artist’s works.

Born in Tomelloso, Ciudad Real in 1936, Antonio López is one of the living Spanish artists most acclaimed and admired by the public. Despite this, he had not exhibited his works in Spain since the retrospective exhibition staged at the Reina Sofía Museum in 1993. Curated by historian Guillermo Solana, artistic director of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and by the artist’s daughter María López, the exhibition includes a major corpus of paintings, drawings and sculptures that provide an overview of a career that has lasted for over fifty years.

Some 130 works provide a fascinating journey through the great realist painter’s life and work. Included here are family portraits, his early Surrealist-tinged paintings, drawings of his studio, sculptures and the famous vistas of Madrid. Although the number of works on display in Madrid and Bilbao is virtually the same, some ten works will be unable to travel to both venues, largely for conservation reasons militating against an overlong exhibition period. All works withdrawn have been replaced by others of equal significance.

As a preview, two monumental bronze sculptures, Carmen Asleep and Carmen Awake, are currently being installed in Bilbao. Carmen Asleep is in the Museum entry hall and Carmen Awake is outside the headquarters of the BBK savings bank in Bilbao’s Gran Vía, at the corner of the calle Diputación.

In 2002 the Spanish Ministry for Economic Promotion commissioned Antonio López to produce a monumental sculpture for the hall of Madrid’s Atocha railway station, which was where the young López stepped off the train when he arrived in the city in 1949. From a plaster mould representing a baby (his granddaughter, Carmen, then six months old) the two giant heads were cast in bronze. They were installed in 2008 and in that same year Antonio López decided to make three slightly smaller copies of each, also in bronze, for display purposes in museums and exhibitions. Each is around two and a half metres long and weighs nearly a thousand kilos. López describes the heads as representing the passing of time: “… the same size, the same small child [his granddaughter], and the same age, they suggested the passing of time to me, Day and Night.”

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