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!
this museum is indeed the only reason I want to visit Bilbao!! I am a fan of Gehry’s architecture and I was very happy to visit (at least) the Walt Disney Music Hall in LA!
This is the only reason I wanted to visit Bilbao but I actually liked the city a lot. The food was delicious! I am going to do another post dedicated to the “old” part of the city.
Very different architecture for sure, engineers are amazing!
I know. There is a lot of talent out there so we keep seeing bolder and bolder architectural styles.
Hello, the museum itself looks like a piece of artwork. I ove the architecture. The sculptures are cool, the puppy is cute. Great visit and tour. Thanks for sharing. Happy Tuesday, enjoy your week ahead!
Thanks Eileen. You will not get bored looking at this museum and all the surrounding architectures. There are even works of arts that you do not see. There is a fire “show” and another work that is created with fog.
Driller's Place says
While I am not a huge fan of Frank Gehry, you have captured some marvelous images of this facility and it looks better than I remember. I am sure that the interior spaces are a celebration of the art that is exhibited. Very nice set of images.
Thanks! I get what you say of Gehry. This building makes sense because it represents something. But, other buildings he has created look more like pieces of metal put together in an abstract way. You will need to understand the meaning behind the design to determine if it makes sense or not.
Photo Cache says
Just like others, I have seen this museum online but not until this illuminating post did I get the urge to see it. You have done a marvelous job in showcasing the museum building and its surroundings. I wanna go there!!!!
Thanks. BTW, I enjoy your style of story telling.
I would be a great place to take your photos. You will need to plan a trip to the Basque Country. You will love in there.
oh. my. goodness. How cool is this!! Just the outside of the building had me drooling, but the Puppy is just the icing on the cake! your last couple of pictures with the clouds and the sun setting over the building are stunning.
I was lucky to arrive to the place in the late afternoon. In that way, I was able to capture two different type of lights. But, it was all pure luck to be honest.
image-in-ing: weekly photo linky says
Wow! Amazing place!
Thank you for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/04/this-is-what-hope-looks-like.html
Thanks a lot for stopping by! Glad you liked the photos.
Your pictures of the Guggenheim are stunning!! That light really is amazing. I never got to Bilbao during my time in Spain, but I definitely have to go back! I’ve heard such good things about this museum and about Bilbao in general.
Lauren, I think you will like Bilbao. I liked a lot of features of the city. The food was great. The restaurants have a nice vibe (funky decoration and friendly service).
Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren says
WOW! What a cool place! This is going on my list. Thanks for sharing!
Happy travels 🙂
Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren says
WOW! What a cool place!! This is going on my list. Thanks for sharing!
Happy travels 🙂
Lauren, you have to add Bilbao and the Basque Country on your list. You are going to find it different from other cities in Spain.
Sallie (FullTime-Life) says
Beautiful museum building and the outdoor exhibits are amazing.
Thanks Sallie! I am glad I made the effort to stop by this city.
Cathy (MummyTravels) says
It is the most amazing building, isn’t it – I do love Gehry’s designs. It’s great to get some more detail on the exhibits and artists’ works there, I hadn’t come across puppy before, not having visited… yet. #citytripping
Cathy, this will be a kind of simple trip for you. I am sure you will like this city (and San Sebastian too).
I love your photos! And I’m glad the weather cooperated for you! My husband has been to this museum as we have friends who live in Bilbao – and I hope to visit it, and them, soon.
Jill, what? your husband went to Bilbao without you? Well, make plans to visit because it is totally worth it. The entire Basque Country is beautiful.
Trekking with Becky says
Beautiful and unique architecture are always mind-blowing to me. I appreciate it all so much since I couldn’t create or build anything so magnificent to save my life.
Ja! That is a good way to put. I am not craft or original on those terms either. At least, we have people who share their talent with others.
The puppy is resplendent in his summer foliage. What an amazing place.
Yes, I know. When I was there, they were actually “grooming” Puppy (with a crane). Would have love to see him full of flowers.
budget jan says
I love the exciting and adventurous architecture of Spain and the Basque country is firmly on my next European list. I’m reading a book about living in Spain at the moment and it has my Spanish dreams happening big time.
Jan, you have to make it to Spain. The thing is that the architecture of one city is different from the architecture of another city which is located close. There are so many styles that you would go crazy. And the styles go from Roman to Modern and Contemporary. You learn so much visiting different buildings.
Grey World Nomads says
Years ago I heard of a small Guggenheim Museum in Switzerland. But this one is awesome! #TravelTuesday
Actually, the most famous is the one in New York. Then, they have this one in Bilbao and one in Venice. Gehry is designing a new building for the one in Abu Dhabi.
Wow! It kind of reminds me of the Walt Disney concert hall in downtown LA.
Yes, it does because the Walt Disney Concert Hall was designed by Frank Gehry too.
kid can doodle says
Fantastic photos and trip! It’s on my list too. Cheers!
Thanks! Hope you can make it one day there.
Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says
What a building! It’s absolutely stunning. Thank you for taking us through it…so many amazing sculptures there too. Unfortunately, we didn’t go when we were in the area BUT we did stay at the hotel Frank Gehry designed nearby which was stunning! Thoroughly recommend. #citytripping
I looks up the hotel you are referring to and I am assuming it is the Marques del Riscal one in La Rioja. Agree that it would me amazing to visit that place too.
Paula McInerney says
I have seen the photos of Puppy in different websites, but love it here. The architecture of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is spectacular..
Thanks Paula. Puppy looks pretty in his many coats.
Very modern architecture, I like it. Resembles somewhat the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, don’t you think so? I’ve seen the Guggenheim in Washington DC. Still very modern building, but different in shape.
Anda, the Walt Disney Concert Hall was designed by Gehry too. I found out there is and exhibitions in LACMA about the works of the architect. I am thinking of going to visit it.
Christy Swagerty (whatupswags) says
I can’t wait to visit the north of Spain, it has so many wonderful things to offer! I find that while I may love the architecture of many modern art buildings, I don’t always have the same appreciation for the exhibits inside, either. Sometimes it can get too abstract (weird?!) for me! Thanks for linking up these gorgeous photos with us on Travel Tuesday!
I get your feeling. I went to the Guggenheim Museum in New York and didn’t like anything inside. Thank God I got in because I had a CityPass.
Jim @ ReflectionsEnroute says
I love your photos of the Guggenheim. We got to Bilbao later in the day and, yes, it was one of those gray overcast days. We did get a break in the clouds at sunset and the entire building came alive! What an incredible place, thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!
I know it is not easy to get a sunny day in Bilbao. So, every ray of sun needs to be appreciated.
Lyndall @ SeizeThe Day Project says
Wow Ruth, what a stunning and impressive piece of architecture! I love those outdoor sculptures too – especially the puppy … how gorgeous that he “flowers” too 🙂
This building deserves the adjectives you are using to describe it. I like Puppy too.
Jennifer (aka Dr. J) says
Great photos! Thanks for sharing. I really need to get back to Basque Country for a weekend. We visited San Sebastian last time we were there but didn’t make it to Bilbao. Thanks again for the travel inspiration 🙂 #TheWeeklyPostcard
You have to go to Bilbao and beyond. I felt very inspired in the Basque Country
Bumble Bee Mum says
I thought our ArtScience Museum’s architecture was pretty swanky. But this looks like a whole new level altogether!! Would love to go there some day! But umm.. I think I still prefer real tulips to the metallic ones. :p
I am with you on the tulips. I am a bit surprised you are surprised by this architecture since Singapore is full of architectural marvels.
Wow! There is so much to see there! Thanks for sharing. It’s so nice that the town bought the Puppy.
I know! It would have been so sad to let Puppy go.
Rachel Heller says
Ever since the Guggenheim in Bilbao was built I’ve been meaning to get there and check it out, but still haven’t. I have fond memories of visiting the NY city Guggenheim and the one in Venice as well. It sounds like I should make sure that the exhibits inside are to my taste before I pay the admission fee, since the real draw is the architecture, not the exhibits inside. If you like post-modern architecture, you should check out the Groninger Museum here in Groningen as well.
Rachel, thanks for pointing me to the Groningen. I have never heard about the museum before but my jaw dropped when I googled it. Absolutely stunning! One more place to add to my Netherlands list.
Boss Penguin says
I can’t believe I had forgotten about Puppy. Thanks very much for this post that has reminded me how much I enjoyed my visit there,
This was my first Guggenheim and I confess to being a little disappointed when I finally got to NY as this is such a bloomin good museum inside and out. I really enjoyed my trip to Bilbao and think it is an ideal weekend destination as you really feel like you have explored it.
I really liked Bilbao. Hoped I had more time there.
Linda Bibb says
Gehry has a lot of talent; it was neat seeing how the changing light enhanced different aspects of the building. I enjoy museums but rarely spend the time to see them. Somehow I always end up getting engrossed in wandering through the cities themselves.
I like museums but have to recognize they take a lot of time. Like you, I have opted to take a look of them from the outside and sped more time wandering a city.
Maman is definitely an interesting but cool piece of art! Thanks for linking up to #WeekendWanderlust!
I know, it is interesting. I think there are like 5 similar sculptures all over the would.
Pinay Flying High says
“That is an odd looking building” is possibly what I would say if I first see it. Lol. I once created a holiday package for a group of architects and they had to rearrange the itinerary to put Bilbao in it to visit this museum. I on the other hand, would probably spend all my time in front of PUPPY. :p
I know that is the initial reaction but if you look closely, the building has the boat shape. I can see why architects want to see the building.
I’ve never been to Bilbao but I’ve always been impressed by how this museum looks, I need to visit the city asap. Hopefully in summer, to see that cute puppy in his summer clothes 😀
I know you have been a couple of times to Spain but you have to visit the north. I think you will enjoy it a lot.
What stunning photos. And a great place for taking pictures with all those shapes and angles. This is somewhere I have to visit!
I know! You cannot imagine how many photos I actually took. It wasn’t easy to narrow down the number for the post.
Just like you, I would visit Bilbao too just for the Guggenheim Museum. Amazing architecture and design! #MondayEscapes
Thanks Kat! I really enjoyed my time in the city. So, thanks to the museum I had the opportunity to visit.
Ting at My Travel Monkey says
I am so annoyed that we didn’t make the Guggenheim in Bilbao even though we flew into the airport for San Seb. Our timings didn’t work. What a stunning building. Having been to the one in NYC, I think this one is much more impressive. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes
I think this building is more stunning too! The insides are similar (not things I enjoyed).
Music Man says
I thought our ArtScience Museum’s architecture was pretty swanky. But this looks like a whole new level altogether!! Would love to go there some day! But umm..
I can’t believe I’ve never been to the Guggenheim museum! Looks like so much fun and I love all the installations! #feetdotravel
Juan Hoang says
¡Vaya! ¡Definitivamente necesito ver esto en la vida real! Las grandes estatuas del perro y la araña parecen una obra de arte magistral. ¡Los edificios también tienen un diseño muy interesante! Espero poder venir y disfrutar de estas piezas pronto.