A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Bilbao Guggenheim

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness. FRANK GEHRY

Before catching the Santander ferry I just had to spend some time in Bilbao - mainly because I wanted to visit the Guggenheim Museum. It was worth seeing for the architecture alone - never mind the exhibits. Designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry it opened its doors in 1997 and was quickly admired all over the world...

Outside the museum next to the Nervion river stands one of Louise Bourgeois' spider sculptures (I've seen another in front of London's Tate Modern). It's a rather menacing, double-edged statement about the jealously protective yet also frighteningly domineering aspects of a Mother (if you look closely you can see the spider eggs). Bourgeois had a similarly ambiguous relationship with her own mother, of whom she was in awe...

Inside this incredible museum building there's a permanent exhibition of 8 labyrinthine, weathered-steel sculptures (a series of twisted torques, spirals and ellipses called The Matter of Time) created by minimalist sculptor and video artist Richard Serra.

There's also an eclectic, themed exhibition running till January of artworks on loan from the Kunsthistorishes Museum in Vienna, one of the oldest art museums in the world. It contains everything you could wish for - from Greek and Roman antiquities to paintings of the highest quality by Arcimboldo, Velázquez, Dürer, Van Eyck, Holbein, Titian, Rubens and Tintoretto.

Several intense and happy hours passed very quickly. When I finally emerged outside into bright sunlight once again it was easy to see how Gehry had been influenced in his curvily organic architectural design by an obsession with ships (Bilbao has a long history of shipbuilding) and fish (look at those overlapping titanium panels which resemble fish scales reflecting the light...)

This newly married couple obviously found the Bilbao Guggenheim an impressive and sympathetic photo-backdrop...

1 comment:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Spain do their museums and galleries very well, don't they?
Several years ago David and I went to the Von Thyssen gallery in Madrid (sure that spelling is wrong!) - fantastic range of pictures in chronological order from early tryptics right through to Picasso's Clarinetist. Also saw Hans Holbein's Henry VIII - marvellous to see that in the flesh rather than in a book.