• By Tim Campbell

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

State of the Art.

Not so much a museum as a masterpiece, the Guggenheim is a must see when in northern Spain. Just a few hours from either San Sebastian or Santander, this now iconic building is worth the trip to Bilbao from anywhere in the world just to see it.

Predominantly Titanium, glass and steel, the Museum is an individual statement by Frank Gehry, the Canadian-American who epitomizes contemporary architecture today. Associated with the museum of the same name in New York designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, The Guggenheim Foundation built several museums around the world. Unfortunately many of them closed within a few years, but Bilbao though, is frequented annually by over a million people and has become one of Europe’s most iconic landmarks.

Situated on the banks of the Nervion estuary, the first thing that jumps out at you (almost literally) is the giant spider sculpture outside the building. The “spider”, made from bronze, marble and stainless steel, and known as Maman, is the creation of Louise Bourgeois and represents both predator and protector. It is kind of intimidating as you walk under it, but it is a glorious prelude for what is to come inside the museum.

The second thing you notice is the bunch of multi-coloured balloon steel tulips sat on the outside of the building. Designed by Jeff Koons in 1994, this colourful array contrasts against the grey of the titanium cladding on the enormous structure.

The third sculpture before you even enter the museum is “The tall tree and the eye”, a collection of 73 stainless steel orbs sat one on top of the other. This amazing edifice, added in 2009, is an Anish Kapoor design which reflects into the pond near the glass entrance.

Somewhat bizarrely, every ten minutes or so, dry ice is pumped from near the pond to envelop the front of the museum, making it look like fog has descended on the building. Obviously a form of art within the art structure, but not for any reason. When asked about it, the staff said they didn't know! It does not take away from the beautiful edifice though, being that it is a timeless monument to art.

The museum itself is easily entered through glass doors, but inside the rooms open up into natural light through the glass floor to ceiling windows. There are five levels, each floor with several rooms of exhibits which change according to the annual schedule. Each level provides a view to both the bottom and top of the building. Corridors are clean and well maintained.

On my visit there were whole floors devoted to David Hockney and Anni Albers, but this year 2018 expands to Henri Michaux, Michael Snow, Diana Thater, Joana Vasconelos and Esther Ferrer. The eclectic painter Chagall and his breakthrough years from 1911-1919 will be exhibited on the third floor from June to September 2018, but the real stars this year will be paintings by Van Gogh and Picasso shown from September to March 2019.

The museum has all the necessary facilities for the disabled, plus a very cool bookshop with prints available for purchase, as well as books by all exhibitors. Entrance hours are daily from 10.00 to 20.00 except Mondays, Christmas day and New Year’s day. Please check the online schedule for any changes.Entrance fees are €13,00 per person unless you’re a senior or student then it’s €7,50.

For more information, and to pre-book tickets, visit

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