Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – Basque Country, Spain

A Masterwork of Architectural Sculpture

The dazzling titanium- and stone-covered edifice that dominates this ship­building and steel center is one of the century’s most talked-about museums—the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The bizarrely shaped structure is described by its architect, American Frank O. Gehry, as a ship run aground on the Nervi on River.

Art lovers vis­iting Europe now include Bilbao as an essential part of their itinerary. The strikingly unusual building has jump-started the city’s desire to create a new image of cultural and economic revival and an openness to the world after its long history of Basque sepa­ratism. The New’ York-based Solomon R.

Guggenheim Foundation manages the opera­tion, rotating parts of its own permanent collection and helping to organize temporary exhibitions. The vast, free-form Bilbao museum is almost twice as large as its New York sibling.

The Basque regional government has covered the $100 million construction costs and created an acquisition fund. Resembling a huge, spectacular sculpture from afar, this is one museum that will never serve as a mere backdrop.

Its eighteen galleries promise an interaction between structure and contents, so that the building remains sympathetic to its rotating exhibits, never overwhelming the artwork. It is, declared Philip Johnson, “the greatest building of our time.”

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