Guggenheim Museum In Bilbao

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, in Spain's Basque north, has gained considerable renown since it was built in 1997. Known by some locals as "the beast" for its remarkable exterior, the museum houses an extensive permanent collection of modern and contemporary art. It also plays host to a continuing series of exhibits of both contemporary and classical art. These include Matisse, Rubens, Warhol, Dürer, and countless other exceptional artists.

The Building of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

The museum was first conceived in 1991 as part of a vast project to revitalize both the lagging economy of the Basque region as a whole and the 800-year-old city's metropolitan area. Both the project and the construction of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao moved from paper to reality very quickly. With the enthusiastic backing of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the architectural genius of Frank O. Gehry, the plan got formally underway with a foundation stone laid in October 1993.

Irrefutably unique, and to some extent architecture for architecture's sake, the building is a rich combination of both materials and shapes. From limestone blocks to titanium curves to glass walls, it incorporates mathematical precision and musical fluidity. Its nickname of "the beast" is due in part to its not-altogether-surprising resemblance to an aircraft carrier.

The city's economy, after all, has been based on shipping and shipbuilding for hundreds of years. Hugging the Nervión River banks, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao takes up some 24,000 square meters and rises 50 meters into the skyline. Interesting, it managed to do so without overwhelming the landscape. It's no wonder that many visitors come to Bilbao expressly to see and visit its Gehry Guggenheim, just as they visit Shanghai for its spectacular 1992 city museum.


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