Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, along the Nervión River in downtown Bilbao
Established October 18, 1997
Location Abando, Bilbao, Spain
Type Art museum
Visitor figures 1,002,963 (2007)[1]
951,369 (2008)[2]
Director Juan Ignacio Vidarte
Website Official website

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a museum of modern and contemporary art, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, built by Ferrovial[3], and located in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. It is built alongside the Nervion River, which runs through the city of Bilbao to the Atlantic Coast. The Guggenheim is one of several museums belonging to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The museum features permanent and visiting exhibits of works by Spanish and international artists.

One of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, the building has been hailed as a "signal moment in the architectural culture", because it represents "one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something."[4] The museum was the building most frequently named as one of the most important works completed since 1980 in the 2010 World Architecture Survey among architecture experts.[4]



The museum is clad in glass, titanium, and limestone

The curves on the building were to appear random. The architect said that "the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light".[5] When it was opened to the public in 1997, it was immediately hailed as one of the world's most spectacular buildings in the style of Deconstructivism, although Gehry does not associate himself with that architectural movement. Architect Philip Johnson called it "the greatest building of our time".[6]

The museum's design, and construction, serve as an object lesson in Gehry's style and method. Like many of Gehry's other works, it has a structure that consists of radically sculpted, organic contours. Sited as it is in a port town, it is intended to resemble a ship. Its brilliantly reflective titanium panels resemble fish scales, echoing the other organic life (and, in particular, fish-like) forms, that recur commonly in Gehry's designs, as well as the river Nervión, upon which the museum sits. Also in typical Gehry fashion, the building is uniquely a product of the period's technology. Computer Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA) and visualizations were used heavily in the structure's design.

The museum by night, November 2007

Computer simulations of the building's structure made it feasible to build shapes that architects of earlier eras would have found nearly impossible to construct. While the museum is a spectacular monument from the river, at street level it is quite modest, and does not overwhelm its traditional surroundings.[citation needed] The museum was opened as part of a revitalization effort for the city of Bilbao.[7] Almost immediately after its opening, the Guggenheim Bilbao became a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe.[6] It was widely credited[by whom?] with "putting Bilbao on the map" and subsequently inspired other structures of similar design across the globe, such as the Cerritos Millennium Library in Cerritos, California.

The building was constructed on time and budget, which is rare for architecture of this type. In an interview in Harvard Design Magazine[8] Gehry explained how he did it. First, he ensured that what he calls the "organization of the artist" prevailed during construction, in order to prevent political and business interests from interfering with the design. Second, he made sure he had a detailed and realistic cost estimate before proceeding. Third, he used CATIA and collaborated closely with the individual building trades to control costs during construction.


The Matter of Time by Richard Serra in the Arcelor Gallery
Tulips by Jeff Koons

The exhibitions in the museum itself change often, the museum hosts thematic exhibitions, centered for example on Chinese or Russian art.[citation needed] The museum's permanent collection concerns 20th century art—traditional paintings and sculptures are a minority compared to installations and electronic forms. The highlight of the collection, and its only permanent exhibit, is The Matter of Time, a series of weathering steel sculptures designed by Richard Serra and housed in the 430-foot (130 m) Arcelor Gallery (formerly known as the Fish Gallery but renamed in 2005 for the steel manufacturer that sponsored the project[9]). The collections usually highlight Avant-garde art, 20th century abstraction, and non-objective art.[10]


There is a tramway stop called Guggenheim 100 meters away from the museum. Line 18 of the bus system also has a nearby stop. The museum is located 500 meters north of Moyua station on the Bilbao Metro.

Media impact

  • The building can be seen in the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough in the opening sequence where Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan) steals a case of British money from a corrupt Swiss banker (played by Patrick Malahide) affiliated with the villain Renard's terrorist network. [1]
  • The building was featured in Rajinikanth's mega-budget flick, Sivaji: The Boss by S. Shankar for the song Style composed by music composer, A.R. Rahman. The song sequence, choreographed by Prabhu Deva, was shot for 16 days.[11]
  • The building was featured on a poster presented to Arthur Read and his friends by Frank Gehry on the television series that was named after Arthur. The poster had Gehry's signature on it.
  • Mariah Carey's music video "Sweetheart", directed by Hype Williams, shows singers Dupri and Carey in various locations at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.[12]
  • The building is featured in the computer game SimCity 4 as a buildable landmark.

See also

Puppy by Jeff Koons in front of the museum


External links

Coordinates: 43°16′06.98″N 2°56′03.43″W / 43.2686056°N 2.9342861°W / 43.2686056; -2.9342861

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