Jenny Holzer’s work has long been an integral part of the Guggenheim Bilbao’s furniture. Her towering Installation for Bilbao (1997) was commissioned for the museum’s opening and dominates its atrium with nine luminous columns, each more than 12m high. Five of the American neo-conceptualist’s inscribed stone benches also form part of the collection, alongside two works made for her 2019 retrospective ‘Thing Indescribable’: a vertical LED sign called There Was A War and the light projection For Bilbao.

Now, the erstwhile Wallpaper* Guest Editor has harnessed the power of AR to take this long and fruitful relationship into a new dimension. Here, Holzer is doing what Holzer does best: democratising art and sparking intrigue with provocative, arresting, text-based interventions in the public realm for all to experience. 

LIKE BEAUTY IN FLAMES, 2021 by Jenny Holzer, an AR text installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain

Like Beauty In Flames sees Holzer’s signature text-based art translated into three distinct AR experiences: two site-specific works that engage the Guggenheim Bilbao’s architecture and one that can be accessed from devices anywhere in the world.

This new, distinctive artwork has been created exclusively for the museum’s permanent collection and inaugurates its three-year plan to present pioneering projects in which technology is at the heart of the art. 

In the open air, AR projections appear on the Guggenheim Bilbao’s façade from five campus sites, in a virtual echo of For Bilbao. Holzer selected texts from different authors for the projections – the artwork’s title, Like Beauty In Flames, is borrowed from Polish poet Anna Świrszczyńska’s compelling poem Beauty Dies

LIKE BEAUTY IN FLAMES, 2021 by Jenny Holzer, an AR text installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain
LIKE BEAUTY IN FLAMES, 2021 by Jenny Holzer, an AR text installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain

Inside the museum, an AR version of one of Holzer’s LED signs glides through the central atrium, the column contorting and spiralling as Truisms in English, Spanish, Basque and French scroll past.

Like Beauty In Flames can be experienced via a dedicated app for mobile devices, which has been developed by London-based digital agency Holition and is available to download from The Apple App Store or Google Play. §

LIKE BEAUTY IN FLAMES, 2021 by Jenny Holzer, an AR text installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain
LIKE BEAUTY IN FLAMES, 2021 by Jenny Holzer, an AR text installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain