The Roaring Twenties

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents The Roaring Twenties, a stimulating tour through the groundbreaking 1920s through more than 300 objects representing the most important artistic disciplines of the time, from painting, sculpture, and drawing to photography, film, collage, architecture, fashion and furniture design.

The exhibition will introduce visitors European cities like Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Zurich, where major changes and progress were occurring in all spheres, many of which can still be felt today. Even though we cannot compare 1:1 our decade with the 1920s, there surprisingly a lot of parallels, dominated by the trauma of a pandemic and a major recession due to World War I. Yet at the same time it was a decade of progress, with an explosion of creativity and freedom, so this glimpse into the past offers encouraging ideas and inspiration for the future.

As a rare perspective compared to other shows devoted to this period, the exhibition The Roaring Twenties reflects the exchange between different progressive movements such as the Bauhaus, Dadaism, and the New Objectivity through seven narrative chapters, and it includes icons of architecture design which reveal the formal diversity that characterized those transformative years. This exhibition goes beyond clichés about the 1920s, exploring which aesthetic moments of that time were so influential and important that they are still omnipresent in the present, even though we barely take notice of it. It also features the works of contemporary artists who explicitly use the formal language and themes of the 1920s, thus linking it up with today.

Another new feature of this show is the pioneering collaboration between the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and renowned playwright and opera director Calixto Bieito, who was in charge of the exhibition design, forging an enriching relationship between the fine arts and the performing arts. Currently artistic director of Bilbao’s Teatro Arriaga and resident director of the Theater Basel, in addition to having a vibrant international career in which he has directed more than 80 operas and plays, Bieito has in-depth knowledge of the period, which enables him to bring to the exhibition a theatrical conception of an intellectual and thrilling time.

In short, this exhibition is bound to delight audiences because it tries not to nostalgically reconstruct or recollect but instead to ingrain and make sensually palpable our cultural origins in our memory and highlight how different phases in history are simultaneously both similar and different.

In the words of Bilbao curator Petro Joos, “The 1920s witnessed an explosion of creativity, erotic freedom, sexual urges, and feminism, yet also trauma, struggle, and unbridled, merciless economy. And all of this is reflected in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in a very special way thanks to the exhibition design by Calixto Bieito.”

The prestigious set designer poses a challenge or call to “take advantage of the experience of ‘The Roaring Twenties’ to trust our own creative freedom and not fall into the mistakes that engulfed the world in one of its greatest catastrophes. May the 2020s not turn into an Infinite Jest.”

Exhibition Programs
Round Table (May 5)
As an introduction to the exhibition, curators Cathérine Hug from the Kunsthaus Zürich and Petra Joos from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will address key aspects of it with Calixto Bieito, exhibition designer and artistic director of Teatro Arriaga. In-person and streamed.
Shared Reflections
Unique tours led by professionals in the Museum’s Departments of Curatorial and Education offer different vantage points on the contents of the new exhibition.
• Curatorial Vision (May 19): Petra Joos, Museum curator, will lead a tour around the main works in the show.
• Key Concepts (May 26): Marta Arzak, Associate Director of Education and Interpretation, will talk with participants in the galleries on the general and didactic keys to the works.
*Sponsored by Fundación Vizcaína Aguirre

Actions with local creadores (June 3, 10, 17, 25 and July 1)
In collaboration with the Museum, a number of local creators will hold brief talks in the galleries, reinterpreting the 1920s from a current perspective and different approaches. With the participation of Lucía Astigarraga, Raúl Cancelo, María Goiricelaya, and Sergio Verde