A Visit to the Guggenheim in Bilbao

Today I had a conversation with a coworker about Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin, which is set in Bilbao, Spain. It reminded me of my time there on my honeymoon, and I realized I’d never written about it here. I haven’t read Origin yet and can’t say whether it’s true to life.

We stopped in Bilbao for part of a day on our drive from San Sebastian to Zaragoza. Our mission: to see the Guggenheim Museum.


The building itself is gorgeous, designed by American architect Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. If you find yourself in the area, it’s worth at least strolling around to look at the outside.


There are a number of huge sculptures on the outside as well, such as Puppy, above, by Jeff Koons, a topiary sculpture of a dog.


Another of the sculptures we enjoyed was Tulips, also by Jeff Koons.


The day we went, unknown to us in advance, there was free admission. We were fairly happy about that, even though the museum was consequently fairly crowded. The largest exhibit was Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time, which Jeff is standing inside above. It’s large curved pieces of steel and is part of the permanent collection. The main other exhibit was works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which were not my favorite.


Due to the buildings odd shape, the gallery space inside is also a bit strange. There’s a lot of open space above, but many of the walls are curving. When we were there, it didn’t seem like there was a whole lot of different art to see. But we enjoyed it nevertheless.


Above is Tall Tree & The Eye by Anish Kapoor. It reflects the building nicely.


Louise Bourgeois’s Maman was perhaps my favorite sculpture outside.


I’m not sure why, but I really enjoyed this giant spider. There are actually multiple Mamans in the world (this one and most of the others are bronze castings of the original at the Tate Modern), and I’ve seen another at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.


My favorite part of visiting the Guggenheim was definitely on the outside. Both the building itself and the outdoor sculptures were really great. I’m glad we went inside, but I wasn’t as enamored of the art inside. I must say I sometimes struggle with modern art.

If you want to visit the Guggenheim (and you should!) know that tickets are €10 and they are usually closed on Mondays. You can buy tickets and find out more information on their website.

Have you been to the Guggenheim? Or perhaps read Origin?


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