Monday, April 01, 2013

Exchange Adventures: Bilbao!

Ever since I first saw a picture of the Guggenheim Bilbao in my high school art history class, I have wanted to see it in person.  However, Bilbao is not exactly an easy place to get to and doesn't have much else going on in the city besides the museum. So getting there takes some effort.  Luckily, I was able to coordinate a trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian with our trip to Normandy for a schedule that looks like this:

Saturday: Fly to Bilbao, see the museum and anything else of interest, take the hour-ish bus to San Sebastian
Sunday: Enjoy San Sebastian
Monday: Enjoy San Sebastian, take the train to Hendaye, France, then take an overnight train to Paris to arrive Tuesday morning
Tuesday: Train to Caen, rent a car, then Normandy leg begins

Therefore on Saturday, Joe and I took a remarkably easy flight into Bilbao, caught the bus at the airport, arrived at the museum, dropped off our backpacks, and got to exploring.  Let me just start by saying that THIS MUSEUM IS INCREDIBLE!!!! As we drove alongside the museum, I was blown away that we were actually there and at how immense it was was.  I have seen two other Frank Ghery buildings, but this one definitely took the cake. It had the essence of a ship in the harbor, with each section coming out of a new section, and no straight lines to be found.  I think the pictures explain what I mean.

When we walked up, I went a little giddy at "Puppy" who sits in front of the museum.
Mmmm! If only Sam smelled this good!
Inside I was glad to see that the museum was relatively empty so we were able to spend a lot of time exploring without running into people.  (And for my Life Philosophy friends, I managed the immediate picture below.)

By the way, many say that the building is the best part of the museum. However, I beg to differ because the art collection inside is remarkable.  While neither Joe nor I were really big fans of the exhibits on the top floor, we were both blown away by the second floor.  Here is a description of what we saw:
"Organized  by the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris-Musées and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, L’Art en guerre, France 1938–1947: From Picasso to Dubuffet shows how, in the ominous and oppressive context of Nazi-occupied France during World War II, the artists of the day rebelled against official slogans by coming up with novel aesthetic solutions that changed the content of art."

I had never given much thought to how the war affected artists at the level this exhibit demonstrated. There were works from concentration camps, works by artists who defied the Nazis, works by people who had to hide in their tiny kitchens for fear of anyone finding the art, and so much more. There was also a room dedicated to represent the first Surrealist exhibition.  I thought this was a really powerful exhibit that shed a ton of new light on art from this period.

The bottom floor had some interesting works as well, including Richard Serra's permanent work and a modern collection filled with artists including Warhol and Basquiat and other contemporaries. Of course, I don't want to dismiss how beautiful the museum was from the inside as well. We spent quite a bit of time just staring around in awe.
After nearly three hours inside, Joe and I decided to take a break, get some food, then wander around the outside for more perspective.  We crossed a bridge over the river and admired the building from different angles. Then we went back and enjoyed coffee next to the building.  We were so lucky to have a gorgeous sunny day to be able to fully experience the museum.

Bye bye for now, Puppy. Until next time!
From there, we walked through town to the bus station, bought a ticket to San Sebastian, and were on our way.I am so happy we went to Bilbao and I was able to see the Guggenheim in person. I would definitely go back if given the opportunity, and I encourage anyone even remotely interested to go too.

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