GUGGENHEIM BILBAO MUSEUM

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The opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
On Sunday, October 19 1997, the Basque administration and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation opened the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to the public. A series of events starting October 3 leaded to the official opening on October 18 by the King of Spain. Designed by Frank O. Gehry and located in the city of Bilbao in northern Spain, the museum is devoted to American and European art of the 20th century. It is envisaged as an international center of modern and contemporary art, and will extend the Guggenheim Museum's efforts to bring its collections and programming to audiences around the world.
The project
Plans for a new cultural institution for Bilbao date back to the late 1980s, when the Basque administration began formulating a redevelopment program for the city. The administration's goal was to diversify the city's economic base by building upon its traditional shipbuilding and heavy manufacturing industries. A museum of modern and contemporary art was conceived as a major element of this plan. 

In 1991, Basque officials approached the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to propose that it participate in Bilbao's redevelopment program. In December of that year, a preliminary agreement was reached leading to the establishment of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Foundation to manage the independent institution. On February 27, 1992 this agreement was formalized with an official agreement signed by Basque President José Antonio Ardanza and representatives of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
 

The Building, a symbol of Bilbao
Gehry's design for the 24,000 m2 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will serve as an architectural landmark recognizable worldwide. The museum evokes not only the industrial vitality of Bilbao but also the iconoclastic design of Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggeheim Museum in New York.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a collection of interconnected blocks housing galleries, an auditorium, a restaurant, a museum store and administrative offices. These buildings have as their central focus a single architectural composition. With its towering roof, which is reminiscent of a metallic flower, the museum will enliven the riverfront and serve as a spectacular gateway to the city.
 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Gurutze Gorriko trena herri batetik pasatzen

Gino Severini
Red Cross Train Passing a Village, summer 1915
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York
 

The mission of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is to collect, preserve, research and present works of modern and contemporary art in all its forms. Founded in 1937, the Guggenheim Foundation has developed a comprehensive collection of 20th century art and organised an extensive exhibition program.

The Guggenheim Foundation currently oversees three major museums: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and restored and expanded in 1992 by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates; the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, designed by Arata Isozaki and opened to the public in 1992; and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, located in Venice, Italy, and renovated and expanded in 1995 by Leila and Massimo Vignelli.
 

Bilbao, a leading European City
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is one of the most significant initiatives undertaken in the city to meet the challenges of the European Union and the year 2000. In addition to the new museum, Bilbao is also completing a number of projects designed by some of the world's most renowned architects. Included in the city's redevelopment plans are: a new subway system designed by Sir Norman Foster, which opened in November, 1995; the reconstruction of the city's airport and construction of the Uribitarte Footbridge over the Nervion River by Santiago Calatrava; and a waterfront development by Cesar Pelli. The waterfront project, which will be adjacent to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, will include the conversion of former shipyard into parks, apartments, offices and shopping areas.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Villa Borghese, 1960

Willem de Kooning
Villa Borghese, 1960 
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa
 

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opens its doors with the threefold mission of bringing together and interpreting the most representative art of our time, fostering artistic education and the public's knowledge and understanding of the arts, and complementing the extensive collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The Guggenheim Foundation, founded in the twenties by Solomon R. Guggenheim and his artistic advisor Hilla Rebay, has collected objects produced in the twentieth century from the full range of Western visual arts. This magnificent collection is distributed in three museums managed by the Foundation: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, both in New York, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in Venice. Now, the unique collaboration between the Basque Administration and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has made possible one of the most ambitious cultural projects of our time, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

The permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao basically includes works by the most prominent artists of the last forty years of this century, and is supplemented by works from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation -significant examples of Pop Art, Minimalism, Arte Povera, Conceptual Art and Abstract Expressionism among others- and by special programming sponsored by the Foundation. Further, a number of rooms at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao are devoted to in-depth installations and other to site-specific works specially commissioned for this Museum. Basque and Spanish contemporary art is also represented by a selection of works by the best artists in the field. Together they provide a satisfying overview of the latest trends in our contemporary art.
 

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a masterpiece of twentieth century architecture

 

 

From the beginning, the architecture of the building that would eventually house the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was recognized as a decisive factor in making the project the international landmark of artistic excellence it was designed to be. This approach continued the tradition begun by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation when it commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design the original museum on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Frank O. Gehry was entrusted with the task of designing the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, largely because his conceptions reflected the project's enormous potential by integrating the building into the fabric of the city of Bilbao and into its ongoing urban regeneration plan.

Gehry’s huge sculpture-like building is fashioned from a surprising array of materials and endowed with an extraordinary, unmistakable silhouette. Under the apparent chaos caused by the juxtaposition of fragmented volumes with regular forms finished in stone, curved forms covered with titanium and huge glass walls, the building revolves around a central axis, the atrium, a monumentally empty space crowned by a metal dome. Daylight floods in through the glass walls and the skylight set high up in the dome. Leading off from this central space, a system of curved walkways, glass lifts and stairways connect 19 galleries that combine classical, rectangular spaces with others of unusual proportions and forms. The wealth and variety of spaces makes the museum exceptionally versatile. The notion of the collection as encyclopaedic overview is reflected in the chronological distribution of the works in rectangular galleries housed in the regular, stone-covered volumes. This overview is complemented by the in-depth spaces devoted to specific artists, for whose work 9 galleries of special forms and spectacular dimensions are reserved in the titanium-finished volumes. Temporary exhibitions and large-format works are housed in an exceptional, 30 metre wide gallery which stretches along nearly 130 metres of column-free space located in the impressive volume that runs under the imposing La Salve bridge. This space culminates in a tower which integrates the bridge itself into the intersection of volumes that configure the building.


 
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