26.11.2012 - 26.11.2012 12 °C
Today we went to see Bilbao's Guggenheim, a modern art museum first opened in 1997. The Guggenheim Museum is actually a masterpiece in itself, designed by Frank Gehry. Though still full of art, it was absolutely nothing like the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay. Opinions on modern art range from idolization to repulsion. Some see it as a shoddy excuse for "real art", while others enjoy trying to find the meaning behind the sculpture of the vacuum cleaner. Whatever your outlook, it's still quite an experience. Taking pictures was not generally allowed, but I'll link to some of the works throughout the post.
It was pouring rain this morning, and we made our way to the gallery as quickly as possible. After we had shaken off, checked our bags and equipped ourselves with audio guides, we made our way to the largest work of art in the museum: The Matter of Time, by Richard Serra. It weighs a total of 1200 tonnes, and is located in the largest room in the museum, the Fish Gallery. We were able to interact with the art, walking through the curves and spirals as we made our way to the other side of the room. It was even more impressive from above. This was probably my favourite work of art in the Guggenheim, apart from the building itself. Another large creation, though tiny in comparison, was Installation for Bilbao, by Jenny Holzer. Nine 40ft floor-to-ceiling LED strips, not unlike those used in advertising, flash scrolling messages in English, Spanish and Basque. English and Spanish are shown at the front, while Basque, the regional language, is shown at the back, representing how it used to be forbidden. Originally the messages had been written for an AIDS fundraising event, and relay messages of love and loss. Curved walls reflect the lights, and it is quite the experience standing enclosed within the walls and the LED signs.
From here, we moved onto the second floor, which seemed to be dedicated entirely to the artist Claes Oldenburg. His art ranged from the slightly dark and bizarre to the "would someone really pay for that?". In one room, most of the creations were made of cardboard and cloth, roughly painted and lacking in detail. However, the next room was, in my opinion, much worse. Well, perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh. I looked him up after our visit, and found that many of his outdoor sculptures far outstrip the gallery of his we saw today. Still, we weren't altogether impressed. Apparent gems such as Floor Cake and Big White Shirt with Blue Tie didn't quite do it for us. Many of the pieces looked downright ugly, in my opinion. But we decided not to write him off entirely, and continued on through the exhibit, coming to the Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing. The Ray Gun Wing was filled with various interpretations of ray guns, hence the name. A collection of everything from plastic toys to bent pop can tabs to a curved piece of rope (which Abby didn't think should count) was contained within a dark, gun-shaped box/room. The Mouse Museum was also shaped like a giant mouse head, and full of trivial, everyday objects and toys, as well as a few prototypes for his sculptures. Again, we were slightly nonplussed. Needless to say, Oldenburg is not our favourite artist.
After all the cloth plugs, mouse heads and cardboard cut-outs, it was a bit of a relief to enter the pop art gallery. We saw the famous Andy Warhol's One Hundred and Fifty Multicoloured Marilyns, as well as Gilbert and George's Waking and James Rosenquist's Flamingo Capsule. I found these much more interesting and beautiful than any of Oldenburg's creations. My favourite of these was Barge by Robert Rauschenberg. It was a small but captivating collection.
There was a temporary exhibition of Egon Schiele's work, an Austrain Expressionist with a distinctive style. The approximately 100 drawings and paintings depict flowers, children, landscapes, nudes, and self-portraits. Some of the pieces look unfinished and sketchy, while others are daubed with dark colours and sharply outlined. Though not exactly pretty, one could still see the appeal of these slightly grotesque and twisted images. He has an interesting but short life story, and produced an amazing quantity of art throughout his lifetime.
We finished our visit feeling as though our look into the peculiar and eccentric world of modern art was definitely worthwhile. There were a few outdoor sculptures as well, such as the massive and adorable topiary Puppy and the metal spider dubbed Maman, which is actually one of seven spiders all over the world. We recognized it, as it matched the one we'd seen outside the National Gallery in Ottawa. Back home, we a sort of lunch/dinner that was finished off with, what else, pastries in the form of cream-filled croissants. We seem to have managed to keep the pastry thing up, even though we've left France behind. As a final summation of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, I would recommend it to those with an open mind and an appreciation for the out of the ordinary.