There are some very interesting sculptures outside the museum and in the atrium
“Puppy” stands outside the museum. This giant dog designed by Jeff Kuntz has a wire frame, an interior watering system, and 25 tons of soil supporting the plants that cover it. It was intended to be a temporary exhibit at the museum’s opening, but people loved it and it stayed.
Another large outside sculpture is a spider named “Maman.” The French-American artist’s mother was a weaver, and somewhat overprotective. You can stand inside the arms.
“Tulips” by Jeff Kuntz is stainless steel and glass, and doesn’t seem to have any hidden message.
The Atrium has a really interesting LED installation by Jenny Holzer. The words in the moving lines are a conversation about AIDS, and they switch back and forth between languages. If you don’t know what you are seeing, it just looks like red neon on a black wall. However, you can walk between the red lines into the space behind them. The LED display on that side is blue, the language is Basque, and you seem to be looking out from behind jail bars. (Under Franco, speaking Basque was forbidden.)
The Guggenheim Museum was designed by Frank Gehry and built in 1997 with money from the Basque regional government. Everything is titanium, steel, glass and limestone. Titanium hadn’t been used in architecture before this. It reflects light better than other metals, and sometimes it looks golden. The pool outside the museum is not connected to the river although it gives that impression, and the museum “floats” on it. Once per hour, big puffs of steam come from under the walkway and onto the water.
Gehry didn’t want it taller than neighboring buildings, so the main entrance is down a long flight of stairs. The museum’s second floor is at street level. There are 19 galleries (on 3 floors) around a central atrium. Galleries that are a regular shape (square, rectangular) have wood floors and the exterior walls are limestone. Odd shaped galleries have concrete floors and titanium exteriors.
The Basics: Hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Mondays, except in July and August.
Admission: 13 Euro (7.50 for seniors and students; kids under 11 free.) good for all day, so you can leave and come back.
Services: Free tour guides at certain hours, free hand-held audio guides.
Free coat or package check
Chairs! If you leave a piece of ID at the coat check, they will give you a lightweight folding chair to use in the museum. I used mine a lot. (There are no benches.)
Babysitting—there is an area where you can leave your child for 1½ hours for a fee.
Cameras can only be used in the atrium.
Designed by American Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim is the result of a real collaboration between the city of Bilbao and the Guggenheim Foundation. A design that was well incorporated into the citys redelopement program of the late '80's. Taking around 4 years to build, the least one can say is that the glass and titanium building is striking. Opened in 1997 the interior also with its great cathedral ceilings and open spaces are a paradox to the intimate lighting in some of the rooms. When I was there the David Hockney exhibition was on, but quite frankly didn't do a lot for me. After a while of looking at the bright canvas' I started getting a kaleidoscope effect in front of my eyes and had to leave. See the web-site below for future dates.
The museum allows photos to be taken inside, but be careful of the size of your camera bag or rucksack. They operate a size system at the entrance and any bag over a small rucksack will not fit the bin. Remember to take your camera out of the bag before handing it in at the free locker room.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10h00 until 20h00 plus is also open on Mondays during July and August at the same times.
Cost for an adult is 13€ with generous half-price discounts for seniors and students26 yo. Children under 12 are free.
Just to the left of the museum is an annex of the Tourist Office, where you can pick up plenty of info on the rest of Bilbao.
Without actually going inside the museum there are sculptures aplenty in close proximity.
First off, you cannot miss the giant dog "Puppy" a westie in steel, earth and flowers. Standing over 12 metres high the sculpture changes colour all the time as the flowers are ephemeral and watered permanently, some die off while others bloom. It is the symbol of the museum and stands as a guardian before the museum entrance.
Round the back of the museum along the walkway beside the river are another two objects for your perusal. One is part of the series of giant spiders in bronze titled "Maman" - "Mother"" by Louise Bourgeois, an ode to her own mother, that stands some 10 metres high. Another is a cascade of silver balls, known as "Reflectorama" by Anish Kapoor, the same guy that created that red monstrosity seen in the Olympic Park in London.
Just along the Paseo there is another bronze entitled "Judith" by Markus Lupertz, weighing in at 1.500 kgs and is more than 3 metres high.
Descending the steps to the left of the museum is also the "Fire fountain" by Yves Klein, which, judging by photos I found on the 'net would be better seen at night.
Even if you are not into modern art, a visit to the Guggenheim museum is a must do on your visit to Bilbao. The building that put Bilbao on the map. Built over four years and opened in October 1997, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum is simply stunning to look at.
I couldn’t really do justice to buying a ticket to go into the museum itself, as I didn’t really have the spare time or inclination. I simply enjoyed the building itself, the surrounding bridges, and getting up close with the puppy that seems to guard the place.
“Because it had elevator towers and stair towers in it, I started building a metaphoric visionary city, à la Fritz Lang. The catwalks and things became like freeways in the sky.”
— Frank O. Gehry, on his inspiration for his design
The floor plan for “el Guggen” (what the locals call the museum) is just as fascinating as the building’s exterior. The undulating exterior walls are repeated inside.
An exhibition of works by Manolo Valdés (1942- ) was scattered throughout the museum’s passageways and catwalks (see photo #4). Valdés has built a career — in part — by reinterpreting works of art by other Spanish artists, primarily their paintings, into three-dimensional form. For this show of Valdés’s works it Picasso that was focused upon.
I'd not particularly intended visiting The Guggenheim, but spotting it down a side street, I was attracted by the titanium walls, and decided to do another detour from my walk along Via Gran. The building was quite impressive, but I was quite happy with just viewing this major tourist attraction from the outside. (I've visited Venice many times and still not visited her Guggenheim - Maybe one day I will.) I wanted to see as much as Bilbao as I could.
There's no doubt that the construction of this building, (as part of the huge regeneration project of Bilbao in the late 1980's) 'put Bilbao on the map' Its unconventional design by Canadian architect Frank O' Geary is quite stunning, being constructed to resemble a ship, and formed from titanium, glass and limestone. The titanium sheets are intended to resemble fish scales, again as a reference to the adjacent River Nervión.
O'Geary used the latest technology to assist in accomplishing his design - CATIA - Computer Assisted 3D Interactive Application enabled him to complete his project on time and also on budget! It has created much controversy amongst architects, artists, locals and tourists - Apparently feelings are divided between a 'Love it or Hate it'. I was quite impressed, though I don't know how it would look on a grey and rainy winters day.
The Museum interior is made up of about 19 galleries of modern and contemporary art dating from the mid 20th Century to present day. Works are by Local, national and international artists, displayed in permanant and visiting exhibitions. Some visitors come to see the internal architecture more than the works of art.
I found that outside the museum, was a great 'people watching' spot.
For the best views of the museum- walk to the bridge at the right of the museum and cross over the river.
For those interested in visiting -
Tuesday to Sunday: from 10 am to 08 pm
Monday: July and August from 10 am to 8 pm; closed the rest of the year.
The Museum will be closed on December 25 and January 1. On December 24 and 31 the Museum will close at 5 pm.
CLICK HERE FOR INFO RE. TICKETS ETC
Guarding the entrance to the Guggenheim, since 1997, is this eyecatching sculpture known as 'Puppy'
Its 12 metre high frame is covered in a bright patchwork of living plants. Composed of Stainless steel and clay/soil, it also contains an internal irrigation centre to water and feed the 70, 000 flowers. Puppy weighs 15 tons! Apparently the plants are completely renewed twice per year.
This is the work of American Jeff Koons, and was part of a collection called 'Celebration' which also included figures of elephants, pigs and donkeys.
It was intended to be a temporary exhibit at the Guggenheim (Puppy was 'on tour' first appearing in Arolsen, Germany in 1992, then Paris, San Francisco and Sydney) Apparently petitions by local school children resulted in The Flower Puppy taking up permanent residence in Bilbao.
There is some uncertainty to Puppys breed - I thought it resembled a West Highland Terrior. However I've read that many Spanish children think it's a cat!
Again this is a good people watching spot - just seeing how people react, and pose to have their photos taken with Puppy. I was interested to see a man posing his own dog in a shot (pic 3) .
In pictures 2+3 you can get an idea of the scale of this floral sculpture.
Before leaving Puppy and the Guggenheim behind, we'll take a short walk past the canine and towards the bridge (Puente Principes de Espana or Puente de la Salve) .....
“Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know why he has not been defined as an affective or feeling animal. Perhaps that which differentiates him from other animals is feeling rather than reason. More often I have seen a crab reason than laugh and weep. Perhaps it weeps or laughs inwardly — but then perhaps, also inwardly, the crab resolves equations of the second degree.”
— Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864-1936) philosopher and a Bilbao native
ANIMAL AND MAN Jeff Koons’ Puppy, a site-specific sculpture of a West Highland terrier, was commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The permanent stainless steel structure is covered in 70,000 flowering plants with its own internal irrigation system.
Oh! el Poopy, what the locals call this delightful bit of folly, is just so much fun.
“The art that will be shown — the shows are of international consequence. The site — the idea of making such a thing in a place like Bilbao is unique. It’s an out-of-the-way place. The people haven’t been going to Bilbao on their normal trek to Spain — usually going to Barcelona or Madrid. So I think the Basque culture is attractive. It’s interesting. It hasn’t been overdone … it’s an unlikely marriage in the first instance, and that’s why it’s such a miracle … I know it’s going to succeed.”
— Frank O. Gehry (1929- )
ART OF GREAT CONSEQUENCE I am not a fan of most modern art. I was overjoyed that the major exhibition on view during our visit was “Rubens and His Age, Treasures from the Hermitage Museum,” rather than some modernist crap. The exhibition was thrilling! The image used for the catalog cover is the Flemish Master’s 1618 “The Union of Earth and Water.”
As early July 1992, the Consortium for the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, whose mission was to supervise the planning and the construction process of the Museum, was established by the Basque Government and the Provincial Council of Bizkaia. Frank O. Gehry, the project’s architect, unveiled his model for the Museum in February 1993, and the foundation stone was laid on the 23rd of October the same year. One year later actual construction work began.
After the building was finished on 3.October.1997, two weeks of inaugural programs culminated with Museum opening its doors to the general public for the first time on the 19th of October. Within less than 12 months more than 1,300,000 visitors had passed through the Museum’s doors.
“We’re just trying to make a place that’s important, that says art is important to our culture, and hope the artists live up to it.”
— Frank O. Gehry, (1929- ) on his goal for Guggenheim Bilbao
ARCHITECTURE FOR ART’S SAKE This building is breathtaking! It is constructed mainly of titanium, glass and limestone. Here you can see the undulating titanium curves of one of the sides of the Museum. The building is an extraordinary combination of interconnecting shapes. Orthogonal blocks in limestone contrast with the curved titanium forms. Glass curtain walls allow light into the Museum.
Not surprising, the sinuous stone, glass, and titanium curves were designed with the aid of computers because of their mathematical complexity. The half-millimeter thick, fish-scale, titanium tiles, that cover the majority of the building’s surface, are said to have a 100-year life span. Gehry’s design creates a spectacular presence; it is a huge sculpture set against the backdrop of the city from one angle and the river from another.
“This has to be an extraordinary space. Take on Frank Lloyd Wright. Take on the Guggenheim in New York.”
— Tom Krens, director, the Guggenheim Foundation, urging Gehry to accept the commission
The Guggenheim Bilbao has taken on Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic design for Guggenheim’s museum in New York and has added to the Museum’s worldwide stature with a unique space that is more than a building; it is a piece of art sculpture along the River Nervión.
It is from the river that the swooping curves, looking like the sails of a ship, can be fully appreciated.
"The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by North American architect Frank O. Gehry, is a magnificent example of the most groundbreaking architecture to have come out of the 20th century. The building itself is an innovatively designed architectural landmark that creates a seductive backdrop for the exhibition of contemporary art."
This building is very cool, and the designer really showed creativity, in every aspect, it is completely unprecedented. I really like it. I need a poster of this thing.
The artwork is equally thought provoking. The colourful dog is a good way to cheer up the citizens of bilbao who walk on the way to work underneath the spider legs every day.
The dog is so cute! One of the funnest museums i have ever been in. I particularly liked the main lobby and basement, which has large thinking artwork; the main lobby has long artpieces reaching up to the ceiling with an all glass framework walls, and the basement has mind-bending curves and pathways you might get dizzy in. lol
Guggenheim is one the main reasons for the citys tourism, BUT the city has so much more to offer. Bilbao is the most underrated tourist place i think. I was awestricken by the beautiful boardwalks, squares and cozy shopping areas. Especially after seeing the big city feel of madrid, bilbao was a welcome relaxing Haven.
Even after Bilbao's rebirth as an urban centre, Frank Gehry's Guggenheim is still probably the one an only reason why visitors come to this city, the industrial heart of Euskadi. The massive, shining structure is well known around the world for its daring design as well as its miraculous effects on the economy and well being of this city. Before the opening of the museum, the city of Bilbao was an economically depressed urban space where the ETA had a tendency to drive away new investment. The idea for the structure was conceived in 1991 and, after 6 years of planning and construction, it opened in October 1997.
The structure of the Guggenheim is a bit misleading. It is absolutely magnificent and awe-inspiring - and it holds a rather mediocre and uninspiring collection of art work. There is no large or famous permanent collection here, and while some of the temporary exhibits that come through the museum are interesting, many of them are just expressions of political or social activism thinly veiled as art. Still, it is hard to resist the temptation to say that you have visited the Guggenheim, one of the most impressive buildings in Spain.