It’s no surprise that Eduardo Chillida chose a mountain for his magnum opus. His work is monumental because for Chillida the backdrop or context of his works were just as significant to his message as the piece itself. His work “Wind Combs” and his eulogies to water and the horizon pay homage to the elements of nature. While at the same time he emphasizes the harsh relationship between man and nature by placing steel and iron structures against the solemn backdrop of wind, water and the horizon.
Chillida is perhaps one of Europe’s most prolific sculptors of the 20th century.
His work is installed throughout Europe, Iran, Japan and the United States. His preferred medium was iron, but he also sculpted in clay, wood, plaster, alabaster and concrete. He was born in the Basque city of San Sebastian in 1924 and left only to study architecture in Madrid in 1943. Disenchanted with his studies, he decided to move to Paris in 1948 and work as a sculptor.
In 1984, he and his wife bought the Zabalaga farmhouse in the town of Hernani, just outside of San Sebastian. They would slowly expand the property and restore the farmhouse until it was ready for unveiling as the Chillida-Leku Museum in 2000. Unfortunately, Eduardo died in 2002 due to complications with Alzheimer’s disease.
Eduardo’s death and a sharp economic downturn in 2008 seemed to take the life out of the museum. The next two years would be difficult for the museum and the Chillida family. The museum appears to have made modest attempts at soliciting external funding, producing special exhibits and participating in public outreach. By 2010 the museum would be forced to close its doors even though over forty prominent Spanish artists demanded that the Basque government keep it open. Twelve of Chillida’s sculptures are on sale in an effort to recover the losses incurred by the museum.
Eduardo’s death also came before he was able to begin work on his dream project, a mountain cave roughly 40 meters (131 ft) on each side that would be accessible from an 80 meter long tunnel. He started planning this project in the mid-1980’s and had several offers from Italy, Finland and Switzerland before he settled on Mount Tindaya on Fuerteventura (poulation 103,492) in the Canary Islands. He called this project a “Monument to Tolerance”, which seems rather ironic because there’s nothing ecologically, culturally or archaeologically tolerant about it. The project, if completed, will destroy about 64,000 cubic metres of rock from within the mountain. The mining rights alone cost 250 million euros. If that’s not enough, it will also threaten the integrity of roughly 100 podomorphs(foot carvings) that were discovered in 1978 and date back to the Majoreros who were a Neolithic people that arrived on the island sometime between 1,000 and 300 BC.
In fact, Chillida admitted that the project had caused him nothing but depression and insomnia as the controversy over the Tindaya
mountain project progressed. Ironically, Chillida claimed that the podomorphs resembled his signature when he saw them for the first time. He also noted that they were neglected and sometimes defaced because the local government was not protecting them. It retrospect is seems that Eduardo Chiilida’s effort to honor tolerance by excavating a mountain created a backlash of intolerance towards his work that “worships” the environment.
In January of this year a protest against the project was held outside the Canary Islands Parliament. Participants held banners saying “Tindaya no se toca” (“Do not touch Tindaya”). Similar protests were held in Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. The Facebook group Cadena Humana Tindaya is also encouraging people to form a human chain around the proposed construction site and defend the mountain.