The work of Jenny Holzer has always been part of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Proof of this is Installation for Bilbao, the site-specific display she created in 1997, which has been in Gallery 101 ever since.
For over four decades, the American artist has shared her scathing ideas, arguments and concerns in international exhibitions and public spaces around the world—7 World Trade Center, Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, Whitney Museum of American Art, Louvre Abu Dhabi… The artist lives and works in New York. She was the recipient of the Golden Lion at the 44th Venice Biennale (1990), the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum (1996), and the Medal of Arts of the U.S. Department of State (2017). Also, she has received honorary doctorates from Williams College, Rhode Island School of Design, The New School, and Smith College.
Holzer challenges the conventions of traditional art, using the written word with humor, courage and sympathy as a medium for her message. Many of the words in her works are her own, but she also draws on other voices—poems, prose, relevant archive materials, etc. She has printed her texts on T-shirts, plates and LED signs, and she has thrown them on buildings and cityscapes. Highly emotional and strongly political, the works of Jenny Holzer will take you by surprise in the most unexpected places, creating quite an experience and inviting reflection on a variety of controversial subjects.
In 2019, when our galleries hosted Jenny Holzer. Thing Indescribable, the artist donated three works to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, adding to the five that were already part of the Museum Collection.
Survival Series: Men don’t protect… is one of these three works. It will join the other three Holzer benches in the Museum Collection, belonging to other series and displaying texts by the artist.
In her Survival Series, begun in 1983, Holzer questions in a rather urgent tone the ways individuals respond to their political, social, physical, and psychological environment—she even informs and educates about them. Originally written for electronic signs, the messages soon moved to other media like this granite bench, where the artist wrote “MEN DON’T PROTECT YOU ANYMORE”, a phrase with many possible interpretations.