This exhibition is the second in a series scheduled to take place between 2009 and 2012 featuring works from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao collection. On this occasion, the exhibition examines the artistic debates of the 1970s and 1980s initiated by a generation of European artists whose careers began in the 1960s and 1970s, represented here by selected works produced from the late 1980s to the present.
Over the decades, the artistic vision of these artists—most of whom were born in an era of great political unrest—inspired a wide variety of contributions to contemporary art. Each of these creators reacted to the ideological, economic, social, and political forces that shaped the course of events in that period. The return to a more personal style of reflection and to the appropriation of the past as a record of existence itself was expressed using various formal expressions and mediums. The solid materiality of Anselm Kiefer, the gesturality of Georg Baselitz, the romanticism of Gerhard Richter, and the installations of Richard Long, Christian Boltanski, Francesc Torres, and Jannis Kounellis illustrate the complex creative and contemplative processes of this generation of artists.
Baselitz was one of the most prominent artists of the post-World War II era and one of the greatest inspirations for younger artists. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has recently acquired his series of sixteen large-format canvases titled Mrs. Lenin and the Nightingale (2008), which is on view here for the first time. These paintings combine historical and autobiographical references with word play and enigmatic phrases reminiscent of contemporary artists such as Frank Auerbach, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Lucien Freud, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons.