the wonderfully futuristic guggenheim bilbao opened 15 years ago. when i first saw a picture of it, i immediately put it on my list. there’s a lot to be said so i’ll try to be brief. in case you want more details, you know what to do.

so, 11 euro will buy you a whole day in the museum as well as an audio guide. allow a few hours for your visit.

personally, i was most excited about the dual brancusi/richard serra exhibition , but after actually seeing it i was not impressed. i liked the pieces separately but i just didn’t see the dialogue thing…

anyway, the permanent collection has several very cool pieces. some are site specific like the intriguiging led piece on the ground floor by jenny holzer or serra’s huge room full of steel coils.

if the locals invested a lot into the museum building and into pieces from the big contemporary artists in order to pull an international audience, i’m their target audience. if the guggenheim wasn’t there, i doubt i’d have visited the city.

the outside pieces:

i discovered louise bourgeois in 2008, when her pompidou retrospective caused a maman to be placed in jardin de tuilleries. i saw a second copy in front of the mori sky scraper housing the art museum in tokyo and a third one behind the guggenheim in bilbao. it doesn’t get old. it’s beautifully balanced and perfectly different from what is widely perceived as street art.

the fog sculpture by fujiko nakaya starts every hour. the system consists of 1,000 nozzles powered by a high-pressure pump/motor. the words are too dry to attempt to describe the bewitching generated fog:  i was minding the clock so i could see the whole process over and over again.

jeff koons has two pieces: the very cute puppy in the front, a structure holding a flower bed moulded as a terrier, and the bunch of tulips that look inflatable but are actually made of colourful polished steel, in the back.

anish kapoor’s tall tree & the eye is a shiny apparently orderly pile of steel bubbles that allegedly cost the local authorities a cool 3M euro. the recent purchase left the locals dissatisfied once again with this capitalistic approach to art: investing exclusively in international artist pieces that will bring more income instead of also supporting basque culture and art. (i’ll get back to you on this one, an interview with a bilbao-based curator is in the works)

i ended the long visit at the bistro guggenheim bilbao, with the tasting menu (sopa de marisco con tropezones de merluza, calamar y mejillón – seafood soup with pieces of hake, calamari and mussels, albóndigas de ibérico con salsa de hongos y chips de alcachofa – iberic ham meatballs with mushroom sauce and artichoke chips, soufflé de chocolate fluido con crema helada – fluid chocolate souffle with ice cream+ rioja wine). an interesting take on local cuisine.

call me crazy, but i left the museum for a few hours only to come back around 7 pm to see yves klein’s fire fountains. i had to wait around until it got dark enough but i think it was worth it: i befriended local dogs on their evening river side stroll until the roar of the powerful fires nearly scared me to death. the piece is formed of five… let’s call them jet engines. it looks just like a jet was buried and all one can see and hear are the five raging spit fires. impressing! they only worked for a little while, as they probably burn through a looot of fuel.

off-topic: if you prefer yves’ famous shade, check out cos’ current collection: they’re having a klein blue moment.

a cool link: click to discover the museum’s secret corners!

i loved the museum, inside and out, as a piece of art in itself and as an art space, and the exhibitions as well. everything was user friendly, child-friendly, the information was in several languages; it was a welcoming space, trying to teach you and not snubbing you for not knowing everything already. a nice way to spend at least half a day!

ps: and, in case everything i’ve said about bilbao so far didn’t fully convince you, you could book flights for 12-14.07 (try vueling, spanish low cost with flights from bucharest via barcelona). it’s for bilbao bbk live. i’m sure you’ve been considering flying out some place in europe for radiohead. or snow patrol. and the cure is just unmissable. have fun! you’re welcome

photo credits: google search