As a big modern and contemporary art lover, Bilbao has always been on my list. I had a big desire to see the best of the Guggenheim Museums. As I have to admit I was slightly disappointed with both New York and Berlin.
They say it depends on your luck and the exhibition that is being shown. Oh well, maybe next time when I’m in the Big Apple.
The museum’s controversial building was designed by the famous American architect Frank Gehry. The locals call it ‘the beast’ because of its bizarre shape.
Even if I didn’t know who the designer is I wouldn’t have to think hard after seeing this titanium masterpiece. So similar to Gehry’s other projects that I have seen around the world.
Such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, the Experiences Music Project in Seattle, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Cinematheque Francaise in Paris or his house in Santa Monica.
The museum collection primarily focuses on 20th-century American and European art. And I was lucky enough to see a truly great exhibition of works by David Hockney – ‘A Bigger Picture’. I had the chance to see some outstanding works of George Baselitz and Richard Serra.So, overall, the museum made a good impression on me.
I liked the ‘Puppy’ and the ’Tulips’ by Jeff Koons and ‘Maman’ by Louise Bourgeois, which I had the pleasure of being able to photograph in Zurich of last year and in the Leeum Museum in Seoul back in 2009.
There is no doubt that the Guggenheim Museum provides a surreal focus on Bilbao, but don’t be immensely foolish to overlook the rest of this Basque city.
I almost made this mistake. Arriving in Bilbao after an amazing time in Biarritz and the Pays Basque, and after a spectacular week in San Sebastian, I nearly took it for granted.
Bilbao is still undergoing an enormous transformation from a gritty port city into a cultural and artistic magnet. In my humble opinion embracing art and architecture is the right way to go.
At times it seems like two different cities, the River Nervion divides Bilbao between the old and new. To the east are the narrow streets of the intriguing Old Quarter with the original seven parallel streets of the old town.
The Gothic Casco Viejo, lined with ancient mansions, small boutiques and the cathedral centres around the Siete Calles district and the cathedral-like Mercado de la Ribera (the largest of its kind in Spain).
The custom is to come here for bar-hopping, drinking ‘chiquiteos’, and tasting delicious Basque cuisine in numerous bars and taverns while enjoying good conversation. After being spoiled with exquisite pintxos in San Sebastian, I was more into the restaurants and ‘txakoli’ which I had been avoiding before ha ha ha
On the opposite side of the river the Guggenheim Museum, Palacio Euskalduna and the Isozaki Atea skyscrapers are dazzling symbols of the new, artistic part of the city. Buzzing, energetic metropolis with a fantastic shopping area on the Grand Via.
To explore these captivating contradictions of old and new. Stroll alongside the river’s manicured walkways, lovely footbridges, bicycle paths, beautiful sculptures, and some very impressive modern architecture and riverside cafes.
When in Bilbao do not miss the delightful funicular from the Plaza Funicular up to the spacious gardens and the magnificent panoramic view of the city. Visit the Fine Art Museum exhibiting mainly Spanish artists, from El Greco, through Goya’s bullfighting lithographies to Velasquez.
Have a coffee in the Plaza Nueva or take a bus outside of town to the beach or the nearby Llodio to explore the Museum of Gastronomy. But most importantly, take it easy, relax and let yourself be slowly charmed by this unapparent city.