The Basque district spans over the South-West France into Spain and roads and shops bear both French and Basque names. It is less crowded and flashy than the Côte d’Azur yet it has many super chic pockets – a local artist told me that Vito and Lola Schnabel learned how to surf here.
Zako’s studio in Bidart
I spent a week exploring the art scene with ex-pro snowboarder now artist and sculptor Zako (who is thanks to my surfer uncle part of my family- Yeah!!!). She mainly works in metal and embroidery with large-scale sculpture of the human body, skulls and design objects with a recent foray into conceptual work around religion.
After being denied her spot in the Spanish Olympic team (because she recently had mothered a son-WTF?!!) she decided to, after putting up a fight, finally leave competitive snowboarding to work on her art. Her recent series reflects the identity-crisis she went through during this shift, “losing my religion.” Like the large-scale rosaries with ovaries hanging in her studio and the crucified bunny rabbit “Jesus Crabbit” looking out over the garden.
Guggenheim Bilbao & a spider by Louise Bourgeois
Guggenheim Bilbao, that unfortunately does little to support local art practice apart from having a Spanish wing, is the regions main cultural attraction. The building designed by Frank Gehry is impressive in it’s own right but the stainless steel walkways, asymmetrical space and large sheets of metal seem to compete with the art exhibited. The Yoko Ono retrospective was fantastic – Fly(1970), a video following flies on Ono’s body was great to see IRL.
Another incredible building, reminiscent of a wave is the The Cité de l’Océan et du Surf in Biarritz designed by Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with Solange Fabião. The museum’s content seems to be a disappointment but the photography show on view on the lawn outside was cool. Magnificent photos of waves by Sylvain Cazenove and the underwater creatures Francoise Latour caught my eye.
The launch party of the International Surf Film Festival of Anglet was a great venue to meet the creative crowd, each town has atleast one gallery and in the summer there is a new show opening every week! One of the cooler spaces is Space Junk, with an impressive output of publications, founded by Jérome Catz in 2003. Representing “low brow” artists including an array of ex pro-snowboarders, and skaters they have launched many artists careers, including Zako’s. When we visited the Bayonne location art historical and political reference heavy work by French street and stencil artist Goin was on view, her work is awesome, poignant and if you’re looking to decorate your home – very affordable!
PS — I helped Zako with the piece below – in protest to the war on Palestine, Guerilla Art!
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org.