Inside Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum Is Just As Extraordinary as the Outside

A great argument can be made that the Guggenheim Museum transformed the city of Bilbao. It was a conscious effort by the city to bring culture to an industrial area. When walking around, you notice the artistic endeavors of the city, as well as the vast public spaces for public art.

Like Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry is one of the many names who created a design and cultural renaissance for the Basque city. His design for the Guggenheim has become one of the most iconic buildings in the art world. No matter how many times you look at it from the outside, you discover something new whether it be how the sunlight hits the iron works or seeing it from a different angle.

That’s half of the experience. The inside of the museum has glass and steel works jettisoning in different directions. When you read up on the Gehry’s process on the design, he focused on the inside space before the outside.

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The centerpiece of the museum is Richard Serra’s permanent installation, The Matter of Time. A series of eight sculptures tower over you as you walk in-between and around. It’s a piece of art that on the surface can have little meaning. It can be just big hunks of twisting bronze metals.

As you find out in the audio tour, Serra’s idea is more about an emotional experience rather than intellectual connection. You are the art and everybody’s experience is going to be different.

If you are curious about how this was made, there’s a video off in a side room which explains how they were implemented, transported and secured. I was wondering how these things just don’t fall over.

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The other fascinating exhibit is the Truisms poetry wall by Jenny Holzer where series of lines in English and Basque scale up and down from ceiling to floor. Phrases from “A little knowledge goes a long way,” “Life is not a rehearsal” and “Your oldest fears are your worse ones” are perfect for that Facebook friend who posts nothing but inspirational quotes.

It’s one of those exhibits where you can sit for 15-minutes just to see what pops up next.

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The temporary exhibit during my visit was works from Jean-Michel Basquiat called Now’s The Time. He came up at the time where graffiti, street art and hip-hop were rising from the underground in the late 70s and early 80s. You wonder what he would have thought of New York City now and about how his art can be purchased for $20 on a t-shirt at Uniqlo.

To plan your visit, just know that the museum is closed on Mondays, except for in July and August. Open from 10am-8pm. Carve out 2-3 hours to explore the space.

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