Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Visiting the Guggenheim in Bilbao

On May 17, having been assured we wouldn't need our passports to go into and out of Spain, we departed our hotel in Saint Jean de Luz at 7:45 a.m. for our walk to the bus that would take to the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

I have delayed reporting on our Guggenheim visit because I'd heard that no photos were allowed. To avoid having a camera dangling uselessly around my neck all morning, I left it on the bus.

Bad idea!

In any case, after returning home I solicited photos from my fellow travelers, and Jane, Jeanne and Kathy graciously sent some for me to use in my blog. Kathy has additional shots from the Guggenheim here.

A post by blogger Sion Dayson, Paris (Im)perfect, who had visited the exhibit "Monumenta" at the Grand Palais in Paris and had photos of this unusual installation art, finally inspired me to pull the photos together for this post. (The Monumenta exhibit will run through June 24 if you'll be in Paris.)

Denis, our bus driver, was waiting, double-parked, for us on a main street and we headed south for the border.

                                            Spain, coming up                         Photo by Kathy
 At the end of the previous day's sightseeing, Iban, our Basque guide had explained that Denis would drop us off under the Poppy.

     Will that be easy to find?
     Yes, the Poppy is very big, with flowers.
     (Light bulb goes on)  Flowers. A big poppy.

We also put Denis' mobile number in to my phone and we tested the connection. When we were finished with our museum tour, I would ring Denis briefly to signal him to return from bus parking to pick us up under the Poppy.

It wasn't until we'd left the bus and walked out from the lower level drop-off point that we saw the PUPPY! Turns out the Puppy is a major meet up spot and he wears a new coat of flowers seasonally.

                                       Puppy                    Photo by Jeanne

As soon as Denis pulled away I realized my mistake with the camera, because the museum itself is a work of art and much of it is photographically accessible from the outside. We immediately set out to find the group entrance where we would find our English-speaking guide, not as easy as one might think, particularly since we got conflicting advice from passersby. We set ourselves out at intervals so we could inform by hand signaling down the line if anyone found something.

                                                                     Photo by Kathy

                                                                 Photo by Kathy
                                                                 Photo by Kathy

                                                                                             Photo by Jeanne

There are art pieces inside and out. It's principally inside where the photos aren't officially allowed but at some kinds of inside installations, a discreet picture might not be noticed.

                                    Our group with our guide                  Photo by  Kathy

Our guide provides a history of how this Guggenheim came to be located in Bilbao, how it was designed, what it's made out of (limestone, glass and titanium).

                                                                                                  Photo by Kathy

                                                                                                Photo by Kathy
Like ships in a harbor. Or surging in close formation over the sea.

                                                                                              Photo by Kathy
 Ramps and slow-rising steps lead the visitor from level to level.

                                                                                              Photo by Kathy

We visited several installation exhibits within the museum. We did see a few head-scratching exhibits there. I know art should be thought-provoking, but I'm not sure that some of the thoughts provoked were what the artist had in mind. I think most of us enjoyed Richard Serra's series of sculpted forms, known collectively as "The Matter of Time."

Photo Postcard emailed to me from Jane

The museum website says of this exhibit:
The Matter of Time enables the spectator to perceive the evolution of the artist's sculpted forms, from his relatively simple double ellipse to the more complex spiral. The final two works in this evolution are built from sections of toruses and spheres to create environments with differing effects on the viewer's movement and perception. Shifting in unexpected ways as viewers walk in and around them, these sculptures create a dizzying, unforgettable sensation of space in motion. The entirety of the room is part of the sculptural field: As with his other multipart sculptures, the artist purposefully organizes the works to move the viewer through them and their surrounding space.

 Photo from Museum website

Just to give you an appreciation of the scale of these works, see the two people in Jane's photo of the same scene.

                                                                                               Photo by Jane
We had enough time to go through two of these forms and the paragraph above accurately describes what is disorienting and evocative at the same time, as we pulled something from our memories while moving through them. I went first through one side of the Snake and back through the other. My balance is terrible and I had to trail fingertips along at least one wall to stay on my feet. Then I went through one of the Torqued Spirals, I think the one toward the front of these views. As to what this short journey evoked, I felt like I was drifting in a boat down the Colorado River between high red canyon walls.

                                                           Photo by Kathy

I think this is the Torqued Spiral we walked through:

                                                                                        Photo by Kathy

                                                                                             Photo by Kathy

The water adjacent to the building is a water feature, to the right of the walkway I believe it is the river. The water feature is kept at the same level as the river to make them appear as one. Jeanne's view from a little farther away also shows the mammoth sculpture,  "Maman," or Mommy, in the form of a spider. The spider cares for its young by protecting them in the shelter of the legs, and it is said that the visitor is enveloped in a sense of love and protection when standing in that enveloping space. As an arachnophobe, that's a hard story to buy, and I couldn't bring myself to go anywhere near it. I'm even uncomfortable with photos of the sculpture, since the artist has really hit the angles in the legs with so much truth.

Below this overall scene, I have included a solo picture of Maman, but I have left it small, for the comfort of those of us who don't want to be startled by a spider in their face. Those who want a closer view can click on the photo to enlarge it.

                                                                                             Photo by Jeanne

                                       Photo by Kathy

                                  Back to Puppy as we depart                 Photo by Kathy

There must be many more exhibits here that we did not have time to see. To see the museum itself is well worth a visit, and a longer visit to Bilbao would be in order.

See you tomorrow.


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