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New contemporary art complex to open in Catalonia with vast Juan Munoz installation

Planta project is situated in a working open-cast mine

Sorigué's industrial site where Planta is being built Courtesy of Fundació Sorigué

A giant installation of the contemporary Spanish artist Juan Muñoz’s work, Double Bind (2001) opens next week (30 October) in a huge converted factory in Lleida, Catalonia. The 2,000 sq m. building has been renovated specifically for Muñoz’s installation following the same lines and dimensions used for its original presentation in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2001. It is one of a series of spaces—or “pavilions”—that will make up the new Planta project that has been launched by the Spanish construction company Sorigué.

Located in the middle of the firm's headquarters in a working open-cast mine, the company’s foundation plans to construct a 7,500 sq m. central building that will house a research centre as well as its collection of over 450 works of contemporary art. Fundació Sorigué plans to break ground on the building early next year with a completion date of 2020 or 2021.

Exterior of Juan Munoz's Double Bind at Planta Courtesy estate of Juan Muñoz. Fundació Sorigué, 2017

The immersive sculptural project Double Bind, Muñoz’s final work before his death in 2001, was first created for the Turbine Hall as part of its Unilever Series of commissions. The new Planta space has been created in a former factory. “It took six months to adapt the building and around five months to install [the work],” says Lucia Muñoz, the artist’s daughter, who has overseen the project at Planta.

The work, which explores the ideas of spectatorship, privacy and the distortion of space, divides the cavernous venue into two floors. The ground floor is dimly lit with recesses in the ceiling in which visitors can see human figures in domestic scenes, while from the brightly-lit upper floor it is only possible to see the edges of the spaces and the figures are hidden from view. Two empty elevators slowly ascend and descend between the floors creating an eerie, monotonous mechanical sound that echoes in the vast space. “[Double Bind] is an exploration of the spaces of the modern city and of the modern mind,” said James Lingwood, the co-curator of the original commission, at the press preview of the installation.

Juan Munoz's Double Bind at Planta Fundació Sorigué, 2017. Courtesy of estate of Juan Munoz

Double Bind is on loan from the Muñoz estate—which is managed by his widow and fellow artist Cristina Iglesias—for five years. This is the first time the work has been shown in Spain and is only the third time it has been on public view, with its second outing having been at Milan’s Hangar Bicocca as part of the artist’s retrospective in 2015. “[Double Bind] is a big commitment for an institution and there is always the question of space,” Iglesias says. “We have been trying to find a permanent home for it but it’s great to have it here now. The context is fantastic and the piece is alive­—that is what we want,” she adds.

The Planta site also includes other pavilions for exhibiting works from the foundation’s contemporary art collection, including a white cube space showing several large-scale works by Anselm Kiefer and a bunker from the Spanish Civil War that houses a video work by Bill Viola. Further pavilions are planned for artists including William Kentridge, Wim Wenders and Chiharu Shiota and a site-specific installation by Viola is due to be unveiled in May.

While the unusual location of the Planta complex lends an interesting dynamic to the project, it also brings issues of access. As a working industrial site, visits to Muñoz’s installation are only available by prior booking through Fundació Sorigué and the location is fairly remote.

“We have no expectations for visitor numbers,” Vallés says. “I think what people want is experiences and if they do not come then they will not experience it,” she says. With direct trains to Lleida from Madrid and Barcelona, the team hope that people will come as a kind of pilgrimage. “Double Bind has the force to [make] Planta a destination,” Iglesias says. “It’s a high level to open with and we want it to become a destination. It is worth the trip.”