I just arrived in Bilbao near Spain’s northern coast. Bilbao is the capital city of Basque country and it’s beautiful! Part of its charm is how it seems to have been engineered for humans. Walkers and bikers enjoy the wide path along the tree-lined River Nervion. The city’s mix of old and new architectural styles seem to complement each other, as if to say “of course we get along — we’re all Spanish.” Lots of public transportation, no traffic, sidewalk cafes everywhere. But the real stand-out in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry. There are so many reasons to love this museum!
First, the Guggenheim’s design is powerful and perplexing and soothing all at the same time. As strange as it appears at first sight, it seems so perfectly situated along the river, with green hills on one side and downtown on the other. The museum is home to some important work by such artists De Kooning, Rothko and Basquiat. During my visit today, I also saw (and loved) a temporary exhibit of 20th century art from Paris and a moving performance of modern dance — held in the foyer and therefore within view of visitors on every floor. The museum is also a gathering place. Kids play among the sculptures in the courtyard while grown ups sip coffee at the museum’s outdoor cafes and listen to the music of local buskers. The Guggenheim is also credited with bringing back back this once-industrial city from the brink of economic disaster. I read a review of the museum that said “It’s a lot of modern art — you either hate it or love it!” But you don’t have to love any kind of art to love this museum.