Happy 20th Birthday, Guggenheim Bilbao

01 Nov 2017

by ArtRabbit

It has been 20 years since the Guggenheim Bilbao opened its doors. We went along to join in with the birthday celebrations and get to know Bilbao.

During its twenty year existence, the museum has welcomed an impressive 20,000,000 visitors to its 97 temporary exhibitions and 70 presentations from the permanent collection. Conceived in 1997 as part of a city-wide regeneration project, the museum’s main goal was to help reinforce the cultural centrality of Bilbao on a worldwide scale. Twenty years on, the impact of the museum on the local area has been so extraordinary it has its own cultural ‘cause and effect relationship’ named after it. ‘The Bilbao Effect’ has become a cultural phenomenon that other cities have long since tried to replicate with similar institutions.

Now pitched as the main reason for the revival of the once economically distressed city, the Guggenheim Bilbao has had a substantial economic impact bringing in 4,770,000,000 Euros in direct expenditure and maintaining an annual average of 5,030 jobs.

Frank Gehry’s architectural design has become famous in its own right. Known for the seamless fusion between the strong, iconic exterior and the flexible, functional internal exhibition spaces. The museum is fiercely proud of its building, the structure becoming a large part of the identity of the institution.  

In order to celebrate this impressive 20-year accolade, from 11-14th October the shimmering exterior surfaces of the famous building were transformed into a unique, sensory experience in ‘Reflections’ - a spectacular projection mapping commission by 59 Productions.

The 20-minute show combined music, light and projection, pulling some of the artworks from the museum’s collection and blockbuster shows to the outside of the structure. Using cutting-edge technology to turn the whole building into a canvas, the show celebrated two decades of cultural transformation in the city by rightly placing the museum at the centre of the artistic spotlight.

You can watch the light show here:


Anni Albers

Although the 20-year birthday celebrations have now passed if you are planning a trip to Bilbao this season there are two temporary exhibitions at the Guggenheim well worth exploring. Whilst joining the celebrations we were lucky enough to be given a tour of the Anni Albers retrospective ‘Touching Vision’ by the curator Manuel Cirauqui to gain further insight into the show.

Bauhaus artists aimed not to make ‘works’ but to produce ‘forms’ which could be implemented in multiple ways and executed over multiple stages of time. These principles were used as the basis of the show's curation providing a tangible mechanism through which to reinvestigate Alber’s past works.

While walking through the exhibition it becomes clear the way in which Albers both playfully and forcefully worked with ‘minor’ art forms to confront the conventionally more ‘major’ (read more dominant) art forms and narratives. Her wallhangings, beautifully crafted and conceived, explore the nature, structure and institutions of painting. She was consistent within this research throughout her career and the show draws focus on the multiple ways in which she returned to this exploration - and to the notion that painting is by its very nature a canvas - a textile at its core.

Bill Viola

Bill Viola: A Retrospective provides a thematic and chronological survey of Viola’s career, spanning his early works to the now iconic pieces ‘The Reflecting Pool’ and ‘Four Songs’. The highly poetic creations address Viola’s recurring themes of time and its destruction, investigations into human experience and experimentation with the recording and manipulation of ambient and natural sounds.

Bilbao beyond the Guggenheim
Beyond the walls (and exterior) of the museum, there is much to see and do in Bilbao. Check out our top picks of the autumn Bilbao shows below.

Current and Upcoming Shows in Bilbao