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Guggenheim Museum … Bilbao’s Precious Jewel | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. (AFP)

London – If you are lucky enough to wander the city of Bilbao, capital of Spain’s Basque Country, you will definitely book a date with the Guggenheim Museum. This huge striking building is located in a suburb that was established as a space for artistic expression.

In order to enter the museum, you should descend few steps to reach the river level. The first thing to attract your eye is the brilliant lighting thanks to the unique long windows. My friend and guide, Lucia, informed me that the distance between the ground and ceiling is 55 meters.

The Guggenheim Museum was designed in 1997 by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry and is one of many museums established by the Guggenheim Foundation in New York.

Following the collapse of steel industry, Bilbao needed a major transformation to diversify its economy and attract tourists. The local government therefore negotiated the museum’s establishment with the Guggenheim Foundation in New York. This exceptional museum is not only dedicated to contemporary and modern art, but it is also considered an architectural masterpiece that sheds light on Bilbao’s steel industry heritage.

For this reason, the building was covered with 33,000 titanium sheets, which has given it a permanent changing appearance. Sometimes it appears grey, sometimes gold, and its colors constantly change with the weather.

The museum’s interior was constructed with stones from the Andalusia region, as well as glass that facilitates the diffusion of light and allows visitors to glimpse the city and activity in its enchanting streets.

Minutes after entering the museum, visitors start recognizing the history behind it. The museum’s brochure explains that it was established to add a touch of democracy to art, meaning you do not have to pay to enjoy the great sculptures surrounding the museum along the banks of the Nervion River. These sculptures include Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” that is composed of 38,000 flowers that give it life and vibrancy.

Among other beautiful sculptures, visitors will find the masterpiece of Jenny Holzer. The installation is composed of many simple and kind messages that inspire people to think about their daily lives. The messages include expressions like “good morning and “I love you” written in the Basque language.

The museum also includes an exciting collection of abstract art. You do not have to understand the messages the artists are trying to convey, but you can just enjoy the colors and stories as told by the guide.

Director General of the Museum Juan Ignacio Vidarte said the museum aims to develop the northern Spanish city. “Over the past 20 years, the museum succeeded in achieving a shift in the city and it is considered an integral part of any attempt to recognize the change that took place in Bilbao. It is an important element in illustrating the international aspect of the city and its attempts to modernize it,” he added.

Figures show that the museum received 1.2 million visitors in 2016, the majority of them foreigners. This year will also be very special for the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, as it will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its establishment in October.