Day 2 Enchanting Bilbao : Guggenheim and Beyond

After our relaxing River Cruise we continued to walk to the modern area of Bilbao towards the world famous Guggenheim Museum, the main landmark of the city.

Guggenheim Museum with the La Salve bridge

Guggenheim Museum with the La Salve bridge

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao stands on the Paseo de Abandoibarra and is framed by two of its great sculptures:, and Puppy, a cute 12-meter-high floral dog by Jeff Koons which has been the unofficial mascot of the city.

A symbol of the revitalization of the city, the Museum, which opened in 1997, was designed by American architect Frank O. Gehry and combines presentations from the Permanent Collection and temporary exhibitions dedicated to the most prominent artists in the world, thus providing a comprehensive perspective on the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Maman, a spider sculpture created by Louise Bourgeois

Maman, a spider sculpture created by Louise Bourgeois

Almost 9 meters tall, Maman is one of the most ambitious of a series of sculptures by Bourgeois that take as their subject the spider, a motif that first appeared in several of the artist’s drawings in the 1940s and came to assume a central place in her work during the 1990s. Intended as a tribute to her mother, who was a weaver, Bourgeois’s spiders are highly contradictory as emblems of maternity: they suggest both protector and predator—the silk of a spider is used both to construct cocoons and to bind prey—and embody both strength and fragility. Such ambiguities are powerfully figured in the mammoth Maman, which hovers ominously on legs like Gothic arches that act at once as a cage and as a protective lair to a sac full of eggs perilously attached to her undercarriage. The spider provokes awe and fear, yet her massive height, improbably balanced on slender legs, conveys an almost poignant vulnerability.

The Puppy by Jeff Koons

The Puppy by Jeff Koons

A behemoth West Highland terrier carpeted in bedding plants, Puppy employs the most saccharine of iconography—flowers and puppies—in a monument to the sentimental. Imposing in scale, its size both tightly contained and seemingly out of control (it is both literally and figuratively still growing), and juxtaposing elite and mass-cultural references (topiary and dog breeding, Chia Pets and Hallmark greeting cards), the work may be read as an allegory of contemporary culture. Koons designed this public sculpture to relentlessly entice, to create optimism, and to instill, in his own words, “confidence and security.” Dignified and stalwart as it stands guard at the museum, Puppy fills viewers with awe, and even joy.

More colored sculptures found outside the museum

Tulips by Jeff Koon

Tulips, a bouquet of multicolor balloon flowers blown up to gargantuan proportions (more than 2 meters tall and 5 meters across), belongs to the ambitious Celebration series, initiated by Koons in 1994. Focusing on the kinds of generic, mass-produced objects associated with birthday parties, holidays, and other festive events—from a party hat and a piece of cake to Easter eggs and hearts—the Celebration paintings and sculptures reflect Koons’s continued engagement with the emblems of childhood.

river incorporated to the design of the museum

river incorporated to the design of the museum

Outside the atrium, a river is incorporated into the design by means of a raised walkway, linking it to the museum’s water garden.

Tall Tree and The Eye by Anish Kapoor

Tall Tree and The Eye by Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor’s monumental Tall Tree and the Eye (2009) consists of 73 reflective spheres anchored around three axes. This illusionistic work continues the artist’s examination of complex mathematical and structural principles embodied in sculptural form. The mirrored surfaces of the orbs reflect and refract one another, simultaneously creating and dissolving form and space.

Arcos Rojos by Daniel Buren

Arcos Rojos by Daniel Buren

When he conceived this sculpture, Daniel Buren decided to make the structure of the La Salve Bridge less brutal, but more visible. With this in mind, he designed a vertical piece perpendicular to the bridge, out of which he cut three circles located at equal distances from each other. This work was inaugurated on the occasion of the museum’s Tenth Anniversary. It creates a central circle around the road, in addition to two semicircles that are also reflected on the water and in the air. The surface is red in color, while the outer edges of the piece and the inside of the arches are vertically striped in black and white. The borders are made of a translucent material that makes it possible to add plays of light at night. The artist took into account the different properties of the context in order to create this work. The first of these is the fact that the site is located at the immediate entrance to the city center, a function that is effectively performed by the central circle. The second is the presence of the museum, with an architecture that combines curved and vertical shapes. The outer edges of the structure produce verticality, while the circles provide curves. The third is the presence of titanium, which produces a mirror-like effect. The red color was therefore chosen to contrast with the green of the bridge, and to add an additional colored reflection on the titanium. The fourth is the presence of the estuary, which reflects Buren’s work and can seemingly lengthen it. The fifth and final element are the cars traveling across the bridge, which produce a horizontal play of light. The artist installed vertical plays of light on the inner and outer edges in order to create a dialog with those caused by the cars.

Guggenheim, The Falling body

Ernesto Neto’s The Falling body female

The inside of the Guggenheim museum  is as amazing as the outside. Its vast contours  are clothed  in shimmering fish-like titanium scales. The more than a hundred feet tall  atrium is the centre of the museum, with the galleries radiating from it.

Ernesto Neto created the work The Falling Body [Le corps] female [from Leviathan Thot] (O corpo que cai [Le corps] fêmea [de Leviathan Thot]), 2006] for the Panthéon in Paris. The building became a monument to humanist ideology after the French Revolution—it embodies modern politics and science revolution and symbolizes the birth of contemporary Western society. The work is now installed at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao  which fully represents contemporary architecture, according to the artist. Neto considers the building designed by Gehry to be an emblematic symbol of our times. We were lucky to be able to view this as it will only stay till May 14, 2014.


Once you enter the museum, you will be surprised with the seeming simplicity of the artworks.  However, we really had a really good guide who helped us think and in doing so realised the complexity and meaning of it all.  I was lucky to be able to take some shots inside because later they said its not allowed.


You would think the above two sculptures are made of wood but upon closer scrutiny and by touching it you will realise that it is Steel!

Richard Serra’s seven-part The Matter of Time

Richard Serra’s seven-part The Matter of Time

Richard Serra has long been acclaimed for his challenging and innovative work. As an emerging artist in the early 1960s, Serra helped change the nature of artistic production. Along with the Minimalist artists of his generation, he turned to unconventional, industrial materials and accentuated the physical properties of his work. Freed from the traditional pedestal or base and introduced into the real space of the viewer, sculpture took on a new relationship to the spectator, whose experience of an object became crucial to its meaning. Viewers were encouraged to move around—and sometimes on, in, and through—the work and encounter it from multiple perspectives.

Richard Serra's Snake

Richard Serra’s Between the Torus and the Sphere

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.

Ernesto Neto's Tent of Dreams

Ernesto Neto’s Tent of Dreams

In the tradition of the Tupi-Guarani natives who speak this Amerindian language of Rio de Janeiro area, the term oca (house) refers to a communal tent that is built collectively and used by one or more family groups. An oca can also be a meeting place and living area where an entire tribe celebrates rituals and shares their ancestral legacy: a house of knowledge. Neto’s oca is a tent inhabited by dreams: this oca is alive; it is an animal in the form of Stone Lips, Pepper Tits, Clove Love, Fog Frog (2008).

In earlier works, Neto used the architecture as a shell. The pieces were the soft part of the “body” and the architecture the membrane or shell covering it. In those works, he added some bone structure and created a room inside a room, and that approach can also be seen in this creation. The dark colors used in Stone Lips, Pepper Tits, Clove Love, Fog Frog bring to mind night on Earth, the star-specked sky, nocturnal animals.

At the entrance to this work, you will see stones stretching the fabric, making the entire piece taut. The presence of two “masculine teardrops” filled with pepper and a “feminine teardrop” filled with clove awaken the visitors’ sense of smell and enhance the sensation of daydreaming.

The tour inside the Guggenheim museum is usually for a minimum of 1.5 hours however since we went here on the day of our arrival from a very long trip, we had the energy to stay only half an hour or a bit over as we were all too exhausted.  However one day, if given the chance I would like to return and further assimilate all the works and its meaning.


The group in front of the most photographed Work in the museum, The Puppy

The group in front of the most photographed Work in the museum, The Puppy

We exited another way so we were able to see the popular Puppy of the Guggenheim Museum which became a permanent fixture of the place.

We then proceeded to walk to our hotel (perhaps a good half an hour walk or so) but I requested our guide to show me the way to the nearest Catholic Church to our hotel and she brought me to the Church of San Jose at the San Jose Plaza,  which was practically a stone’s throw from Hotel Carlton.  God is so good.  I actually emailed Hesperia Bilbao hotel before I left asking for the nearest Catholic Church since I know we arrive on a Sunday and I left Manila saturday noontime so no chance to attend an anticipated Mass.  Since I unexpectedly experienced pains when walking due to some kidney stones, He made sure the church will be walking distance to the hotel so perhaps I thought it was a reason we were upgraded to Hotel Carlton 🙂

San Jose Church

Church of San José de la Montaña

When I arrived mass was going on. I finished it but I learned there is a last mass at 7:30pm.  Too tempting to leave since I gave up my rest time for the mass and dinner will be at 8:30pm.  However I know that all these will not be possible if not for Our Lord and I owe it to him to reserve my time for this Sunday attendance.

Church of San José de la Montaña

Church of San José de la Montaña

It is a beautiful gothic church and I finished the 7:30pm mass.  It was a leisurely walk to the hotel and I still had time to take photos on the square.

Park along Plaza Moyua

Park along Plaza Moyua


Just to show you how central our hotel was, I took a shot of the directional signs nearby

In time for our 8:30pm dinner, we had a great meal with the usual pintxos, soup and fish for the main fare.




We always ask for the Aceite de Oliva whenever we dine anywhere!

Next:  Day 2 Enchanting Bilbao

Source of Art Descriptions: Guggenheim Foundation

See Related Posts:

Day 1: Enchanting Bilbao (Artxanda Mountain to the River Cruise)

The 29-hour travel to Spain

Two consecutive trips in a month

One thought on “Day 2 Enchanting Bilbao : Guggenheim and Beyond

  1. Pingback: Two consecutive trips in a month | Travel Binge

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