BILBAO’S GUGGENHEIM CELEBRATES 10 YEARS
BILBAO, Spain, August 2, 2007 – One of the world’s iconic buildings – a spectacular structure that ushered in a new era in urban planning and design – is celebrating its 10th anniversary in October. Back in 1997, this city in northern Spain was a cultural backwater that had fallen on hard economic times when officials hired architect Frank Gehry to design one of the landmark Museums within the Guggenheim network: the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The phrase “Bilbao Effect” was coined to describe how dramatic architecture can transform an entire city – and in the process, make that metropolis a cultural destination. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s debut set in motion a city-wide revitalization program in Bilbao that continues to this day as architects like Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, César Pelli, Zaha Hadid, Federico Soriano, Dolores Palacios, Arata Isozaki, Ricardo Legorreta and Robert Stern and designers like Javier Mariscal and Philippe Starck, continue to construct stunning performing arts centers, congress halls, hotels, bridges, metro stations, airport terminals, and shopping and entertainment complexes.
Gehry’s swirl of titanium “waves” sits on the banks of the Nervión River, a huge sculpture set against the backdrop of Bilbao. One side descends 52 feet lower than the rest of the city, while another flows beneath the huge La Salve bridge, one of the main arteries into Bilbao. The concept: to bring the city right to the doors of the building. A broad flight of steps takes visitors down to the Museum Atrium, an inspired response to the difference in height between the level of the river and that of the city center. Yet even with its height of 164 feet, this 258,333-square-foot Museum does not overpower the neighboring buildings. The structure itself is an extraordinary combination of interconnecting shapes in different materials. Orthogonal limestone blocks contrast with the curved titanium. Glass curtain walls provide light and transparency. The 11,000 square feet of exhibition space is divided into 19 galleries – many of them large enough to accommodate huge installations.
To commemorate its 10-year milestone, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is organizing two major exhibitions, concerts, dance performances, film showings and other activities. The Museum will debut a new installation at the La Salve Bridge by Daniel Buren and a newly redesigned web site, besides a micro-site specifically for the activities for the 10th anniversary. A documentary and musical piece have been commissioned and a new guide has been published. Visitors to the museum can even download a schedule of the commemorative activities to their cell phones.
Kicking off on October 11, “Art in the USA: 300 Years of Innovation,” will showcase more than 250 compelling works by noted American artists from public and private collections in the U.S. and will be the most significant display of American art every presented in Spain. The show, which will run through February 3, 2008, will be divided into six historical periods, tracing the evolution of American art through three centuries and demonstrating how the art of each era both reflected and contributed to a complex visual narrative of a nation during times of discovery, growth and experimentation. The exhibition explores issues of identity, creation, innovation, and scale—characteristics integral to the American consciousness and derived in part from the variety and vastness of the cultural, political, ethnic, economic, and natural landscapes of the United States. Portraits of colonial merchants and American Indians share exhibition space with idealized figures from the Gilded Age and realistic images of factory workers. Historical paintings of Revolutionary War battles lead to lyrical Hudson River School landscapes and sweeping panoramas of the west’s wide open spaces. The Armory Show of 1914 introduced modern European art to Americans who experimented with Impressionism and Cubism. Later, during the late 1940s to the 1960s when the center of the art world shifted from Paris to New York, Abstract Expressionism received international acclaim. Then the commercial imagery of Pop Art and the economy of Minimalism emerged while other artists experimented with film and video. The exhibition closes with a selection of works that present the many notions of contemporary art in the 21st century as artists continue to rewrite the definition of the word.
Noted American artists whose works are included are: John Singleton Copley, Charles Willson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, Frederic Edwin Church, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam, Frederic S. Remington, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Brice Marden, Chuck Close, Lawrence Weiner, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Richard Prince, Kara Walker and Matthew Barney, among others.
Co-organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art, “Art in the USA: 300 Years of Innovation” was shown in Beijing, Shanghai and Moscow earlier this year.
The second exhibition “Chacun à son goût,” which debuts on October 16 and runs to 2008, is designed to showcase contemporary Basque artists. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has invited them to produce specific works that interact with the spaces of the Museum – and may eventually become part of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection. The critical debate, here, revolves around the tensions and hybridizations between what is local and what is global, as well as the dialogue between modernism and post-modernism. By focusing on the generation of Basque artists that rose to prominence in the 1990s and several artists that emerged in the early 21st century, the show is designed to explore the connections and distances between pure modernism and the sheer diversity of the tendencies of the new millennium. Among the artists invited are: Elssie Ansareo, Ibon Aranberri, Manu Arregui, Clemente Bernad, Asier Mendizabal, Ixone Sádaba, Maider López, Itziar Okariz, Aitor Ortiz, Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa, Sergio Prego and Abigail Lazkoz.
The Guggenheim has commissioned renowned Bilbao composer Gabriel Erkoreka to create a musical piece to be performed for the anniversary celebrations. A documentary by filmmaker Ultan Guilfoyle will trace the 10-year history of the institution. In addition, a comprehensive and scholarly publication project on the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection has begun and the first edition, The Permanent Collection of the Guggenheim Museums, will appear this year. To strengthen the Museum’s relationship with the city’s other cultural organizations, several activities have been planned. From November 26 to December 1, in collaboration with ZINEBI, the Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Film, curator Santos Zunzunegui will examine the relationship between film language and the plastic arts from different aspects. On December 4 and 5, with the collaboration of La Fundación Aretoa, choreographers and dancers Sol Picó and Ismael Galván will perform a contemporary dance piece specially created to be performed around Richard Serra’s installation The Matter of Time. On December 11, during the International Dance Festival, Dantzaldia, four Basque choreographers will perform in the Atrium.
The Guggenheim Bilbao is open daily in July and August from 10 AM to 8 PM. The rest of the year it is open Tuesdays to Sundays and closed Mondays. Admission is about $14 for adults; seniors and students pay about $9 and children under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult. www.guggenheim-bilbao.es
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