The jewel in Bilbao’s revitalization program, the Museo Guggenheim unites art and architecture. The building itself is a star attraction: a mind-boggling array of silvery curves by the architect Frank O. Gehry, which are alleged to resemble a ship or flower. The Guggenheim’s collection represents an intriguingly broad spectrum of modern and contemporary art, and includes works by Abstract Impressionists such as Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Most of the art shown here is displayed as part of an ongoing series of temporary exhibitions and major retrospectives. Some of these are also staged at the Guggenheim museums in New York, Venice, and Berlin.
FRANK O. GEHRY
Canadian-born architect Frank O. Gehry studied architecture at the University of Southern California and then urban planning at Harvard before setting up his own firm in 1962. His early work is notable for its use of unusual materials, including chain-link and corrugated metal. Later works have possessed an almost sculptural quality, made possible by computer design, creating distinctive, unique modern landmarks. During his career, Gehry has been awarded large-scale public and private commissions in the US, Japan, and Europe.
The Guggenheim is a breathtaking combination of curling fragmented shapes, limestone blocks, and glass walls and panels that beam light into the building. The central space (Atrium), one of the pioneering design features, is crowned by a metal dome and skylight. Framing this vast area is a futuristic vision of suspended curved walkways, glass lifts, and soaring staircases that lead to the 19 galleries. Ten of the galleries have a conventional rectangular form, and can be recognized from the outside by their stone finish. The other rooms are erratically shaped, and identified by their exterior titanium paneling (titanium facade). Volumes and perspectives have been manipulated throughout to blend the overall sculpted design with the surrounding landscape, referencing Bilbao’s industrial past.
The collection is arranged over three levels around the Atrium, with Mark Rothko’s Untitled (1952) marking the chronological start. It comprises works by significant artists of the late 20th century, ranging from the earliest avant-garde movements to present-day genres. The artists include Eduardo Chillida, Yves Klein, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Antoni Tapies, and Andy Warhol. There are also artworks by emerging Basque and Spanish artists. The museum’s own permanent collection is supplemented by important pieces from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
This mammoth sculpture by Richard Serra was created from hot-rolled steel. It is more than 100ft (30 m) long.
Puente de la Salve
This bridge was incorporated into the design of the building, which extends underneath it
Positioned on the far side of the bridge, this was designed to resemble a sail. It is not an exhibition space.
The Guggenheim’s prowlike points and metallic material make it comparable to a ship.
Arcelor Mittal Gallery
Formerly known as the Fish Gallery because of its flowing, fishlike shape, this is the largest gallery in the museum. It is dominated by a series of steel sculptures by Richard Serra called Snake and The Matter of Time.
The space in which visitor s to the museum first find themselves is the extraordinary 200-ft (60-m) high Atrium. It serves as an orientation point and its height makes it a dramatic setting for exhibiting large pieces.
View from the City
Approaching from the Calle de Iparraguirre, the museum stands out amid more traditional buildings.
American artist Jeff Koons created this sculpture of a dog with a coat of flower s irrigated by an internal system. Originally a temporary feature, its popularity earned it a permanent spot.
Designed and owned by star chef Martin Berasategui, this serves local specialties.
Rarely seen in buildings, titanium is more commonly used for aircraft parts . In total, 60 tons were used, but the layer is only 0.1 inch (3 mm) thick.
On the west side of the museum. a sweeping concrete promenade connects the Nervion River with a water garden.
Built to rescue the city from economic decline, the museum uses materials and shapes to convey Bilbao’s industrial past of steel and shipbuilding while simultaneously symbolizing its commitment to its future.
1991: Plans to build the museum are approved.
1993: Frank O. Gehry presents he museum design model.
1994: Work begins on the museum building.
1997: The Guggenheim Museum is opened to the public.