Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

If you haven't been yet, go! If you have, then you know why I say this.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao provided me with one of the best museum experiences I have ever had -- and art museums are not my favorite types of museums. I usually prefer history museums. However, this art museum is fascinating on so many different levels, that I think it would appeal to almost everyone. Words like light, joy, curiosity, wonder, fun, dynamic, fresh, imagination, inspiration, relaxation, meditation and activity come to mind when remembering the full day I spent there. Indeed, I arrived just after the 10am opening and stayed until it closed at 8pm.
Of course, the museum building and the site itself are a true wonder of a work of art. It is well worth taking the time to use the audio guide provided for a tour of the grounds and interior of the "titanium icon," which both echos and compliments the Guggenheim Museum building in New York City. Nestled between Bilbao's Nervión River and its Moyúa neighborhood, the limestone, glass and titanium structure billows out like a series of giant sails caught in the wind.
On the riverside is a curving walkway that winds around fountains and works of art, such as Louise Bourgeois' Maman (French for "Mama"), a giant spider cast from of bronze, stainless steel and marble. Just past Maman, the building stretches beneath the modern Puente de la Salve bridge that spans the river. Then the museum shoots up a limestone tower-like facade on the opposite side of the bridge. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Bilbao Guggenheim, a Red Arch designed by Daniel Buren was added to the bridge in 2007. It is well worth the walk up the stairs set into the tower to see the views of the museum, the bridge, the river and the city.
On the side of the building facing Iparraguire Street, visitors are welcomed to the museum's entry plaza by another artistic beast: Jeff Koons' 40 meter tall Puppy, a giant flower sculpture constructed of a steel frame covered by 6500 kilos of earth and 40,000 plants. (On a stroll around the museum area a few nights later, I saw a frisky little cat playing with some of the flowers at Puppy's base.)
Inside the building there is a bright reception area with friendly people prepared to greet visitors in English, Spanish or Basque -- and probably a few other languages, as well. After paying the 10.50 euro entrance fee, a hand-held audio guide device is provided, with a choice of several languages.
The next room is the atrium, which is warm and welcoming, despite it's size. Measuring 650 square meters, it rises 50 meters to the skylight above, and has a glass curtain looking out towards the river on one side. On the other sides it is encased in limestone and includes a couple of glass elevators and an open air stairwell. (For those who don't like heights, there are also an enclosed stairwell and an enclosed elevator.)
On the day I visited, we were greeted by Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa's large cream colored fabric panel dangling down from the floor above, with the following question painted on it in red and black letters: "¿Habeis cedido a vuestro deseo?" ("Have you all given into your desires?)
Just outside the atrium is a large terrace, covered by a limestone canopy supported by a central column. The terrace looks over a shallow pond installed next to the river. The terrace holds Jeff Koons' Tulips, while the pond sports two water-art-works: Fire Fountain by Yves Klein and Fog Sculpture # 08025 by Fujiko Nakaya.
Back inside the building, the exhibition spaces extend out and up from the atrium. There were two exhibitions when I was there:
  • Art in the USA: 300 Years of Innovation, which surveyed the history of the country's visual arts through approximately 200 works of art filling the galleries on the first and second floors floors of the building, and

  • Chacun à son goût (Each to their own taste), a selection of works by 12 artists who were Basque by either origin or residency. These were displayed in the exhibition spaces on the third floor.
I enjoyed both exhibitions -- almost as much as the building itself! Art in the USA will run until April 27, 2008; Chacun à son goût until February 3, 2008.
Chao amig@s,
P.S. The Guggenheim Bilbao web site offers a great virtual tour.


Anonymous said...

Hi carloz,
Going to Bilbao is on my to do list. The Guggenhein sounds wonderful.
I've been reading your past stuff on Barcelona with particular interest as I am visiting there later in the year with my daughter. Any information on decent places to eat is always good to look at.
Keep up the good work

Carloz said...

Thanks, Jacqui! I hope you and your daughter enjoy Barcelona when you visit. Stay tuned for a post on a realtively new place to eat in Barceloneta. Carloz