Since the Provincial Council of Alava initiated its systematic and sustained policy of acquisitions of works of contemporary art in the mid-1970s, the body of works amassed in what is known today as the ARTIUM Collection has continued to grow and has become one of the most important collections in its field.
The ARTIUM Collection is made up of almost 3000 artworks representing all the techniques used in contemporary art, ranging from painting and sculpture to photography, video and installation, as well as works by artists who have written and continue to write the history of art of the 20th and 21st century's in the Basque Country and in Spain, from the first avant-garde movements to the very latest trends. More recently, ARTIUM began to acquire works by international artists in order to broaden the context of the Collection.
Some of the most important Spanish artists include Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Pablo Gargallo and José Caballero, representatives of the first avant-garde movements; Antoni Clavé and Antonio Saura, major figures of the Spanish renovation; others, to give a few examples, such as Antoni Tàpies, Joan Brossa, Manuel Viola, Rafael Canogar, Pablo Palazuelo, Jorge Oteiza, Rafael Ruiz Balerdi, Eduardo Chillida and Andrés Nagel, came to the fore in later generations of artists; consolidated contemporary artists such as Txomin Badiola, Darío Urzay, Miquel Barceló, Cristina Iglesias and Elena del Rivero, among others; without forgetting the Museum's decided support for new and emerging artists and styles. International artists include Bill Viola and Fabian Marcaccio, to mention just two; their creations are laying the foundations for a collection destined to grow and develop.
The works collected by the Provincial Council of Alava represent the nucleus of the ARTIUM Collection but over recent years a large number of important works have been added through deposits and donations made by private collectors and public institutions. The acquisitions approved by the ARTIUM Foundation are made in accordance with three criteria:
- Works belonging to historical avant-garde movements dating from before the 1936-1939 war, which represent the basic framework of the Collection, including fine examples of Surrealism, Cubism, Expressionism and other trends
- Pieces from the period 1940-1990, including works by the few artists that do not yet have a presence in the Collection today, as well as second, third and fourth works from different stages in the development of artists who are already represented in the Museum's collections.
- Works representative of the most recent creations both of young artists who are just embarking on their careers or new names on the contemporary art scene
The Collection gives ARTIUM its own identity and a differential but complementary role with respect to other museums in the Basque Country and in Spain. From every viewpoint, the Collection represents a singular and unique heritage that the centre-museum is obliged to extend, preserve, research and disseminate.
The exhibitions ARTIUM organises to show its Collection represent the one of the Museum's main aims and works are selected in accordance with a chosen theme. The exhibition is modified at approximately one-year intervals in order to show some of the different works that form part of the Collection and, on the other hand, to highlight the narrative possibilities of the art of the 20th-century. On occasions, the centre-museum's own collections are shown in chamber exhibitions or smaller, theme exhibitions within ARTIUM or outside.