Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Retrato de Martha Jungwirth Foto: © Shawn Dell Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul
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Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
June 7, 2024 to September 22, 2024
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Avenida Abandoibarra
2 48009 Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Martha Jungwirth, a retrospective exhibition sponsored by Occident featuring nearly seventy pieces that encompass six decades of work. Austrian artist Martha Jungwirth (b. 1940, Vienna) is celebrated for her unique abstract vocabulary grounded in the physical world. Ranging from 1976 to 2023, the works in the show include a substantial selection of watercolors and oil paintings as well as three artist books spanning nearly 50 years of remarkable production.

Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Martha Jungwirth
Cuarto Vacío, de la serie Yemen (Leeres Viertel, aus der Serie Jemen), 2005
Acuarela sobre papel hecho a mano
104 x 140 cm
Colección particular
© Martha Jungwirth, Bilbao, 2024
Foto Cortesía: Galerie Krinzinger & Martha Jungwirth

Jungwirth’s paintings and watercolors are informed by close observation of the human form, animals, the history of art, and extensive travel around the world. The resulting artworks evoke a sense of spontaneity through their erratic forms and intense colors. Martha Jungwirth’s artwork will be shown in Spain for the first time since 1966, when she was awarded the Joan Miró Prize.

Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Martha Jungwirth stands as a seminal figure in the Austrian art scene. Rooted in the cultural and artistic milieu of postwar Vienna, she studied art at the Universität für angewandte Kunst (University of Applied Arts), Vienna, from 1956 to 1963. Despite the shifting trends within painting, Jungwirth consistently dedicated herself to developing a unique abstract style that draws on myriad influences from her life. Her early work demonstrates a distinct approach for the visceral and the subjective characterized by a fusion of Abstract Expressionism and a raw, emotive quality, setting the stage for the development of her unique aesthetic.

Over the years, Jungwirth has exhibited a remarkable ability to evolve and adapt her artistic language. Her subject matter is as diverse as her own interests, ranging from introspective self-portraits to landscapes and works inspired by current events, such as COVID-19 or the Australian bushfires. Jungwirth’s paintings and drawings masterfully navigate the delicate boundary between realism and abstraction. Her artworks don’t aim to depict a straightforward narrative or visual representation, rather they are defined by their explosive, gestural strokes and vibrant hues that serve as poignant expressions. Through colors that carry emotional weight and gestural forms that hint at their origins, Jungwirth’s paintings defy easy categorization.

Her work captures not just fleeting moments or mere images, but encapsulates profound experiences, emotions, and memories, and through her art, Jungwirth imparts an insightful understanding of the boundless intricacies of reality, offering viewers a glimpse into the depths of human perception and consciousness.

Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Martha Jungwirth
Bucéfalo (Bukephalos), 2021
Óleo sobre papel, montado sobre lienzo
248 x 264 cm
Nicoletta Fiorucci Collection
© Martha Jungwirth, Bilbao, 2024
Foto Lisa Rastl

Jungwirth’s energetic paintings are decidedly non-conformist in style and are made on unexpected supports, such as cardboard, accounting books, or brown paper. The artist has consistently sought liberation in her engagement with unusual materials that defy the conventions of traditional artistic repertoires reveling in the non-precious, the overlooked, and the unorthodox.

These weathered relics, marked by tattered edges and stains, serve as both her canvas and a catalyst for uninhibited expression, inviting her to navigate the nuanced contours of control and chaos with a spirited freedom that transcends conventional artistic boundaries. Jungwirth’s work extends beyond the mere selection of uncommon materials; it transforms them into a dialogue with ordered systems within the physical realm. The juxtaposition of materials designed to impose order becomes, in Jungwirth’s hands, a fertile ground for gestural, spontaneous, and brilliantly colored brushwork.


Martha Jungwirth will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue featuring the works in the show accompanied by Jungwirth’s 1988 poem “the ape in me,” which can be interpreted as an artistic statement, and two insightful essays by exhibition curator Lekha Hileman Waitoller and scholar Julianne Rebentisch.

Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Martha Jungwirth
Sin título, 1990
Óleo sobre cartulina fina, montado sobre lienzo
186 x 142 cm
The Nixon Collection
© Martha Jungwirth, Bilbao, 2024
Foto Auktionshaus im Kinsky GmbH, Viena


As part of the Didaktika Project, the Museum designs educational spaces, digital content and host activities to complement each exhibition as a way to contribute to the appreciation and understanding of the works. This time, the Didaktika, that is sponsored by Fundación EDP, offers additional information about the particular universe of color and gestures in the work by Martha Jungwirth and on her references to old martes such as Frans Hals (17th century), Francisco de Goya (18th-19th century) or Edouard Manet (19th century). The Didaktika is completed by a sample of the artist’s own work materials, acoompanied by explanations about the different techniques used.

Martha Jungwirth at The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opens on the 7th of June 7, 2024 until the 22nd of September 22, 2024

©2024 Guggenheim