Jose Luis Zumeta’s mural in Usurbil celebrates 50 years this year. The Usurbil City Council and the Zumeta Art Studio will take advantage of this special ephemeris, in collaboration, to launch several initiatives around the mural. The conservation work of the mural has begun, through the company Ártyco, and the initiatives that will take place this year have been presented in front of the mural this Sunday. At the presentation were Agurtzane Solaberrieta Mesa, the mayor of Usurbil, María José Telleria, Gipuzkoa deputy for culture, Usoa Zumeta, Jon Maia, a bertsolist who led the 650 Usurbil Vizi tourism project, Azucena Prior, the representative of the Ártyco company, and Mikel Telleria, a musician who has just released an album about Zumeta.
Undoubtedly, one of the elements that makes Usurbil special is this iconic abstract ceramic mural: due to its dimensions (16×9), it is one of the largest works made in this material in Europe. For all these reasons, the City Council and the Zumeta Art Studio have agreed to carry out several initiatives to celebrate the anniversary, in collaboration.
Agurtzane Solaberrieta Mesa, the mayor of Usurbil, recalled that on April 22 it will be three years since the death of Jose Luis Zumeta. According to Solaberrieta, Usurbil and Zumeta form an “inseparable binomial”: “Usurbil cannot be understood without Zumeta”. Born in the Txokoalde district in 1939, Zumeta was a close person: “He preferred to walk apart from the crowd, without much fanfare, at his own pace, in his own style. On his shelf, however, he has left a huge mark here and there, in the Basque Country and the wider world, and, of course, in Usurbil.”
Orain 50. urteurrena duen murala udalaren enkargua izan zen, alkateak gogoratu duenez. 1972ko urriaren 30ean egindako udalbatzako aktan jasotzen da erabaki hura, eta halaxe irakurri du, hitzez hitz, Solaberrietak: «(…) That the materials to be used and the electric oven required to carry out the work import a total of approximately 194,800 pesetas ; that his work fees are indicated at 25,000 pesetas per month, estimating that it will take about four months to finish the work, (…). The municipal corporation, deeming the indicated economic conditions to be entirely correct (…) unanimously agrees to accept them and, consequently, to arrange with Mr. José Luis Zumeta Echeverría the realization of a mural on the rear part of the front of the municipal pediment of this town”. Orduko udalbatzak euskal artearen eta kulturaren alde egindako apustu hura txalotu du Solaberrietak.
Witness the cultural explosion
Usurbil was the square and witness to the cultural explosion that took place in the Basque Country in those decades, as the mayor pointed out: the Artze brothers from Usurbil were part of Ez Dok Amairu, who directed the revival of Basque culture, and Mikel Laboa and Remigio Mendiburu, for example, left their mark on the town; The memorable speech given by Rikardo Arregi in 1966, at the inauguration of the sculpture in honor of Udarregi. According to him, the streets of the town are a demonstration of the relationship and commitment that Usurbil has had and has today with Basque creation. “Basque culture breathes in our streets: Usurbil is an Open Museum. Anyone who comes to Usurbil will have enough to immerse themselves in our streets, look everywhere and find a work of art.’ The writer Bernardo Atxaga recalled what Zumeta said when he had just died: “When the roads open up, go to Usurbil. It is a center of Basque art.”
“Because of the pandemic, we didn’t offer him the tribute he needed; the recovery of this mural is essential”
Mari Jose Telleria
This is exactly what they want to promote through the 650 Usurbil Vizi project: “It proposes an offer based on the identity, values, heritage and transformative projects of the Usurbils, and we want to find visitors who are interested in them: that is, we want to promote identity, transformative and active tourism , out of the usual tourism model”.
Usoa Zumeta told how, as the anniversary approached, he approached the Usurbil City Council with the intention of organizing an exhibition: “I immediately received support, and in the end the dimension of the project has increased”. He also discussed the state of the mural: “After 50 years, it is obvious that the mural is in very good condition, but this anniversary will give us the opportunity to heal the wounds of the mural. Let’s see if we can take care of it so that it lasts another 50 years.”
They have prepared a wide program to celebrate the anniversary that will start now and last until October. The first step, which will last until March, will be the completion of the conservation work. It will be made by Ártyco. The sign in front of the scaffolding bears the slogan “We complete it, we all take care of it”. Citizens and institutions alike wanted to express that it is everyone’s responsibility to preserve the work of art, as it is the heritage of the people.
This has not been done in 50 years, and the passage of time is evident in the work of art, as it is a work located in the street. Before starting the work, Ártyco analyzed the condition of the mural: according to him, the state of maintenance of the mural is generally good, and the support that supports the work of art fulfills its function properly, without causing any structural alteration to the ceramic image.
“On his shelf, Zumeta has left a huge mark here and there, in the Basque Country and the wider world, and, of course, in Usurbil”
Mayor of Usurbil
The intervention will be minimal, keeping the original elements and respecting the work. Mainly, the wallpaper will be cleaned and fixing and sealing will be done. In addition, they will undergo a treatment to promote the preservation of the materials, avoiding external influences or reducing the effects they may have on the mural pieces. At the end, Ártyco will complete a preventive conservation plan, and the work done will be recorded in a short video. In addition, they will also organize a visit to the conservation works, for all those who are interested, on March 11, at 11:30; You must register in advance on the Usurbil Kultura website.
The Gipuzkoa Council will support the conservation work of the mural with 50,000 euros, and Mari Jose Telleria, deputy for Culture of Gipuzkoa, was present at the presentation: “Zumeta died during the pandemic, and the council did not have the opportunity to offer the recognition and tribute he deserved. We are happy and pleased to participate in this event that the town is doing this Sunday. We want to thank both the family and the Usurbil City Council for the invitation: it is essential to recover that mural, because it is the perfect opportunity to share Zumeta’s work with his people and the whole of Gipuzkoa.”
Two exhibitions and a festival
Within this extensive program, two exhibitions are planned. One from April 28 to May 15, with the theme of the mural’s 50th anniversary. It will provide information about the mural: mainly, there will be archives, images and photographs that show the creation process. The original sketch of the mural, an oil painting, will be shown there for the first time.
The second is between September 29 and October 15, with the theme being ‘Usurbil and Zumeta’. It will show the relationship Zumeta had with Usurbil, in a plastic sense. Zumeta has some artworks that refer to Usurbili and usurpers, and these will be the basis of the second exhibition.
There will be two. From the 28th of April to the 15th of May, the archives showing the creation process of the mural, the images, and the original sketch of the mural, an oil painting, can be seen for the first time. The second from September 29 to October 15, about the relationship between Usurbil and Zumeta.
The ‘Speech of the Wall’ project
Taking the mural as a central element, audiovisual artistic videos will be made with some well-known artists.
Civic celebration of the 50th anniversary, in front of the mural. The date is to be determined, but it will be in the summer.
In the summer, they want to hold a festival. There will be a public celebration of the 50th anniversary, in front of the mural, in collaboration with the Usurbilgo Cultural Center, which brings together the founders of the town, cultural organizers and enthusiasts. The date is to be determined, but as they have predicted, it will be in the summer.
And to complete the program, they will carry out the ‘Wall Talk’ project. Taking advantage of the 50th anniversary of Zumeta’s mural, they want to bring this work of art to the first level in the showcase of works of art in Usurbil, Gipuzkoa and therefore in the Basque Country. In order to make this treasure known, the essence of the Hormaren Mintzoa initiative is to spread and give prestige to this work of art outside the borders of Usurbil. For this purpose, taking the mural as a central element, the aim is to make audiovisual artistic videos with some well-known artists: they will be distributed in all digital media, as well as in the media and social networks.