I have to thank the Basque Country. Even though it is known for its cloudy and cold weather, it gave me the perfect moments of sunshine when I needed them the most.
In reality, we spent most of our four days in there covered by thick fog and drizzle. When all hope was lost, a perfect, bright day allowed me to contemplate the views from Mount Igueldo in San Sebastian.
Another one of those cloud free moments came when I caught my first glimpse of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The steel surface glistened before my eyes as soon as I entered Plaza Moyua. At that moment, the sky was still overcastted.
Once I started to approach the building through Ercilla Street, thin rays of light made an appearance.
We humans tend to be fascinated by several sights and places. We see pictures, TV shows and videos of those places we want to visit. However, in my opinion, a sight (statue, building, pyramid, etc.) becomes alive to us when we actually visit it.
Yes, I went to Bilbao because I wanted to visit this museum. But, wow, what a museum!
It is prettier, bigger and bolder than I thought. Not only that, it celebrates Bilbao’s heritage through its different elements. Once in there, I understood why it is a masterpiece.
We started our visit by surrounding the entire building by foot.
Located on the Bay of Biscay, Bilbao is the fourth largest city in Spain, one of the country’s most important ports, and a center for manufacturing, shipping, and commerce. In the late 1980s the Basque authorities embarked on an ambitious redevelopment program for the city. By 1991, with new designs for an airport, a subway system, and a footbridge, among other important projects by major international architects such as Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, and Arata Isozaki, the city planned to build a first-class cultural facility.
An architectural competition led to the selection of California-based architect Frank Gehry, known for his use of unorthodox materials and inventive forms, and his sensitivity to the urban environment. Gehry’s proposal for the site on the Nervion River ultimately included features that embrace both the identity of the Guggenheim Museum and its new home in the Basque Country.
The curves on the exterior of the building were intended to appear random. However, if you take a closer look the building resembles a ship. Since it was built next to the Nervion River, it resembles a ship floating over the water. The design celebrates Bilbao’s naval history.
The actual building is not the only feature to admire. There are other exhibitions that have gained a lot of notoriety.
One of the most famous “residents” of Bilbao is Puppy. Located in front of the museum’s main entrance, this garden in the form of a terrier steals all the attention. He is the work of Jeff Koons, an artist who rose to prominence in the mid-1980s because of his use of unusual materials for sculptures.
Puppy was supposed to be a temporal exhibition but the inhabitants of Bilbao fell in love with him and ended up buying the piece.
It was very sad not to see Puppy in his famous summer coat. Here is how he usually looks.
The Tall Tree and the Eye consists of 73 reflective spheres anchored around three axes. This illusionistic work continues the artist’s examination of complex mathematical and structural principles embodied in sculptural form. The mirrored surfaces of the orbs reflect and refract one another, simultaneously creating and dissolving form and space.
The sculpture was created by Anish Kappor (the same creator of “Cloud Gate” or “The Bean” in Chicago).
Maman is one of the most unusual works of art around the museum. Artist Louise Bourgeois pays tribute to her mother with the sculpture. It symbolizes both the strong and fragile sides of maternity.
La Salve Bridge was built in the 1970’s to provide northern access over the river to the city. In 2007, the sculpture Arcos Rojos was added (on the tenth anniversary of the museum).
The interior is designed around a large, light-filled atrium with views of Bilbao’s estuary and the surrounding hills of the Basque country. It has some large scale works like Richard Serra’s Snake. The museum has a lot of seasonal and/or thematic exhibitions.
In all honesty, the exhibitions did not impress me. It is worth to go inside the museum to take a look at the building from the inside. The other advantage is that an audio guide is included in your entrance ticket. The guide explains all the details of how Gehry conceived the building. It also provides explanations of the different sculptures surrounding the building. I found this very interesting.
Going to the terrace is a must. In there, you can observe the city, the river and the La Salve Bridge. Another sculpture by Jeff Koons, Tulips, is located there.
After we were done with the inside, we took another look at the building. This time the sun was going down and the surface showed tones we didn’t see during out first pass.
We ended our day with the ship views of the building.
Would you like to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao? Do you like this kind of architecture?
Ready to pin? Let’s do this!