Our last trip before the world changed so drastically was a long weekend in Spain – a leisurely one at that. The focus was the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a modernist work of art – and that’s the just the building, even without considering the treasures that the sinous walls contain.
On my bookshelves, there’s a very well thumbed book with a grey cover that inspired much of my initial travels.
‘The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture [Travel Edition – I only came to the UK with a couple of suitcases]’ took me to visit the Villa Müller – a Modernist villa in Prague, inspired me to explore the etheral concrete structures of Tadao Ando in Japan, the La Grande Arche de la Défense in Paris to name but a few. I could go on, but this isn’t an architecture blog, so I won’t. Much.
“Organized geographically and illustrated with global, regional and sub-regional maps, locating each building, plus twenty seven city orientations, the book contains 1,052 buildings, each of which is illustrated with a single image, and is accompanied by a brief description as well as the address and telephone number.” (You probably don’t need to know that, but it was a nice leaf through history forr me.)
This was back in the day where people were using email, but far, far before smartphones were invented (fun fact: the first iPhone was released in 2007.)
Ever since I got that little book, I’ve wanted to explore the Guggenheim Mueseum in Bilbao. In fact, I booked the hotel overlooking the museum so that I could really get my fill – initially I was going to go solo so that I could wander the museum to my heart’s content, but eventually allowed the Mr to come with me – on the very strong warning that he was a tag along…
Designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, the museum was inaugurated on 18 October 1997 by King Juan Carlos I of Spain, with an exhibition of 250 contemporary works of art. The Guggenheim has rejuvenated the city centre (though some locals loathe the steel and glass structure.)
Gehry’s works are famous internationally, such as the Biomuseum, a biodiversity museum in Panama City, the Dancing House in Prague, as well as buildings in several cities in the US and Germany, including Hanover, Dusseldorf and Herford.
In the Bilbao Guggenheim, nearly 170 exhibitions to date have featured the great stars of art from the last four decades, including Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Jeff Koons, just to name a few. There’s also a section of the museum dedicated to Spanish and Basque artists.
Bilbao started blooming and hired other star architects to rejuvenate the city: Norman Forster built an entire subway line. Alvaro Siza designed a university building and an airport terminal, while the pedestrian bridge “Zubizuri,” located near the museum, was created by Salvadore Calatrava.
Inside, there is no specific route – just a core around which the galleries invite you to wander. From immersive interactive displays and immense sculptural elements, to tiny metal figurines, it fires up your imagination. (We did think Yoko Ono’s tree was a poor effort though. The Mr isn’t a fan of the woman who broke up the Beatles in any case…)
Depending on what exhibitions are showing, will largely colour your experience – but just know we spent 6 hours wandering through the various galleries.
It was amazing.
“I could definitely paint this one.”
There are very few straight lines (a very Gehry trait) and it’s so interesting because the building flows like no other.
You forget who you are a little, then peeps onto the surrounding area draw you back to Spain.
Much like the Sagrada Famiglia in Barcelona, the building only truely unveils itself if you explore around as well as in the building. It really has to be seen to be believed.
(We happened to time our wander with Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog Sculpture steam – of course I posed up a storm… #bloggersgonnablog)
Oh, to be exploring those pathways again… (Want to know where to stay in Bilbao?)
Do you enjoy art?