Sunday, July 8, 2012


Day 1 of foul-weather excursions took us to Bilbao, the largest city on the Spanish side of the Basque region and the largest city overall in Basque country.  Bilbao's been described as the "Pittsburgh of Spain," and though I haven't spent much time in Pittsburgh, I'm guessing this is fairly accurate.  The town is pretty ho-hum.  Not so pretty, not so exciting, and it was a Saturday and most downtown shops were deadsville.  Snore.

What Bilbao does have is a Guggenheim Museum.  Yeah, the Frank Gehry one.  You can see it looming at the end of the street here.

But before I get into the Gehry building, let's talk about something happy:  Jeff Koons' "Puppy"!

Spring was good to Puppy, as he was in full bloom.  He looks out at Bilbao, welcoming visitors to the monstrosity of a museum.

Oops.  Here I go.

I have been the opposite of a fan of Frank Gehry since watching the documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry some years ago.  His paper crumpling techniques did not inspire respect from me.  I was more impressed by the skill it took for the people in his office to translate his childish renderings into something that could actually be made, ugly as it may be.  I will give all the props in the world to the people crunching the numbers and running the programs to enable something like this to be built.  But I have few good words to say about the aesthetics of the building itself.

For me, it is a confused jumble.  There were parts I liked (like the glass walls, reflecting back on themselves and the landscape outside), but generally the whole thing felt really haphazard and incoherent.  The sandy granite tiles in atrium were more reminiscent of an office building in suburban St. Louis.  And then there were curvy white drywalled areas.  And the glass walls.  And stairways that were hard to find and didn't take you where you wanted to go.  I don't know, I just didn't like it.  It wasn't warm.  It wasn't interesting.  It was confusing and felt thrown together.  I don't know how so many damn critics can be in its thrall.

Back to happier things, here's Jeff Koons' "Tulip."

Looking out from the back terrace.

Another view from the back terrace.  

As for the contents of the museum, the collection of Serra sculptures is bar none.  (More on that later.)  And there was an exhibit of David Hockney's landscapes that I enjoyed more than I would have thought.  The exhibit included some of Hockney's iPad landscapes, and it's pretty impressive what the ol' boy can do on the new technology.  Google it to see more.  

I'll leave you with this shot of a dog waiting for his owner to finish her gelato with the Guggenheim in the background.