Isla del Rey, which translates to “the King’s Island,” is a four-hectare Mediterranean isle of crystal-clear waters, blue skies, and arid land. A 15-minute boat ride from the port of Mahón, on Spain’s Minorca, the island is home to the ruins of a sixth-century basilica as well as a former naval hospital, constructed by Minorca’s British occupiers in the early 18th century. Starting Monday, Isla del Rey will welcome Hauser & Wirth’s newest art gallery.
A conservation effort to restore Isla del Rey’s abandoned naval-hospital building had begun in 2005, and when longtime island visitors Iwan and Manuela Wirth stumbled upon the ruins of the hospital’s auxiliary buildings shortly after, they decided to contribute. “Like so many times in our gallery life,” Iwan explains, “these places choose us. Opportunities find us.” They envisioned a gallery.
The 16,000-square-foot space has since been revamped by the Paris-based Argentinean architect Luis Laplace and includes sprawling galleries, a shop, and Cantina, a restaurant that will serve fresh seafood as well as wine from the local vineyard Binifadet. Outdoor seating looks out onto the ocean and is sheltered by olive groves.
Laplace stayed true to the nautical setting of the space when designing the eight galleries that make up Hauser & Wirth’s Isla del Rey location. Handles, hinges, and wood hail from local ship ruins, and skylight windows let natural light pour in. “The connection with the harbor is certainly very present,” says Mar Rescalvo Pons, the director of the new site. “The use of traditional materials was an essential consideration since the beginning.”
Piet Oudolf, the Dutch landscape designer behind Manhattan’s High Line, was enlisted to lay out the gardens. Lavender, thyme, and flowering euphorbias sit between gallery buildings, and a small sculpture trail runs along the space’s outdoor perimeter. Franz West’s pink ellipsoid, Autostat, welcomes visitors onto the main deck—“In the context of an open-air setting,” says Rescalvo, “the piece creates a startling contrast between nature and the man-made.” Later along the trail one meets a Surrealist sculpture by Joan Mirò, a large-scale steel work by Eduardo Chillida, and two sculptures by Louise Bourgeois—her 1994 Spider juts out impressively from the central patio. All of the outdoor sculptures will be on view for the next three years.
The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Masses and Movements,” is a solo show by the American artist Mark Bradford and is on through October. A continuation of Bradford’s signature exploration of world maps and marginalization, the mixed-media works are inspired by Waldseemüller, a German map dated 1507 and thought to feature the first use of the term “America.”
Bradford’s globe sculptures, wall paintings, and canvases draw from fragments of Waldseemüller and are superimposed with Bradford’s gestural marks. The scraped, burned, and mottled works ask, What does America really mean today? “We’ve been living through a series of culminations in a long history of marginalization,” Bradford tells me, “of different people experiencing different Americas. I try to do my part to make people who look at my work complicit in this.”
Though Bradford rarely looks to nature for inspiration, preferring the eclecticism of urban life, this exhibition marks a turning point. “People were shipped around the world using the winds that blow across those oceans,” he says. “In some ways, nature is a supporting character in the drama of human existence.”
Visits to the gallery are free, and Bradford has collaborated with PILAglobal, a Los Angeles–based NGO that offers education to families impacted by poverty and displacement. He has also worked with a local arts school, inviting students to contribute to the show. “The students have created wall paintings of maps of the world,” Bradford says, “that highlight the boundaries between countries.” —Elena Clavarino