Last weekend I took a quick trip to the North of Spain. Since I have classes on Friday nights I took the first flight out of Madrid Saturday morning, which was at 6 am and arrived around 7:30 giving me practically the whole day in Bilbao. Per usual I made a friend June while taking the bus and metro from the airport to my hostel, Gambara. She happened to be making the exact same trip as me and works at the Botanical Gardens in Madrid. (I promised here I will go when my mom comes to visit since at least one of us will be able to appreciate the flora and fauna) Here is the Hostel that we stayed at:
After reunited and noshing on the hostel breakfast – cereal and coffee. We set out to explore the city. I have a documented our route through the photos which culminated in our arrival at the Guggenheim, which can be found at the end of the post.
The Guggenheim in Bilbao is probably most known for its architecture by Frank O Gehry. To best understand the architecture it is important to know a little about Bilbao’s history. Originally, due to its location on the water it was a port city, known for its commercial activities. However in the 19th century everything changed. The discovery of local mineral deposits, such as iron and steel, transformed the city into an industrial mecca. Bilbao expanded to meet the new needs, which resulted in new and ever changing architectural features of the city. With the fall of the iron and steel market, in the 20th century the city was forced to reevaluate its dependence upon such industries. Currently, Bilbao is a dynamic city that incorporates the use of such industries along with the benefits of tourism to attractions such as the Guggenheim Museum.
Located on the Nervión River, the large steel panels of the Guggenheim emerge. The undulating panels form a figurative flower in the center according to the artist. With such natural elements surrounding the building, such as the hills in the background or the river, I expected the metal to stand out starkly. However, it blended smoothly in through its ability to take on such fluid forms and capture the natural light. I believe Beñat (I will explain later who he is) told Lexie that the building in some ways was to represent a boat, which is further fulfilled through the small moat around the sides. It is an impressive building for it changes drastically from each perspective.
Our visit to the Guggenheim was not just limited to looking at its exterior. Inside the permanent collection is Richard Serra’s Matter of Time. Lexie and I enjoyed walking through the iron steel exhibits. These monumental sculptures are contained in the largest exhibition space that does not have vertical walls. Something that you do not even realize is missing while walking through the maze-like structures. Their goal is to cause the viewer to interact with the space and at times can make one feel claustrophobic. I personally loved we moved our own bodies to adapt to the slant of the wall. At times we were leaning very far over to try and re-create the illusion that we were fully upright while looking at the top of the sculptures. Here is a link to give you some idea of the sculptures: http://mocoloco.com/art/archives/001166.php.
Another highlight of the museum was the exhibit of the Stories of History featuring two series by Cy Twombly, Nine Discourses on Commodus, 1963 and George Baselitz, Mrs Lenin and the Nightingale, 2008. Through multiple panels these two artists explored important historical figures. Instead of purely figural representations these figures are cast through the lens of the artist and almost completely severed from their historical past. I personally loved the upside-down pieces by Baselitz.
Additionally we were able to Oldenburg’s The Street, The Store, The House and The Mouse Museum. Personally, I only knew Oldenburg through his oversized representations of food and so it was good to be able to see different aspects of his oeuvre. The Mouse Museum is really an interesting piece since you walk through a structure that is in the shape of a mouse, listening to the scuttling of little mice feet and see the collection of many different commodity goods. Some things have been crafted by the artist, while others could have been found in many households in the 50s and 60s. It gives an interesting twist to the Cabinets of Curiosities from the past.
After filling our brains full of art, it was time for lunch. Lexie and I found a cute restaurant and got typical menu’s of the day, which include a first plate, second plate, dessert and in our case a whole bottle of wine. The foie gras that we would find in many other shops first appeared on our duck salads. It was a deliciously rich meal, the first of many that we had in Bilbao!
We spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the old portion of the city. Every type of architecture can be found in the city and it is all perfectly mixed. I hope that my photos can portray this aspect for I found it to be one of the most charming parts of the city. Since we started our day rather early, we took a quick hour long siesta before meeting up with Beñat and his family for dinner. (This spectacular event deserves it’s own post and will be up soon!)
Bilbao in Photos: