Art, Art History, and the Pleasures of the Visual World
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
After Bordeaux it was down the coast and over the Pyrenees . We edged along the Atlantic, admiring sea birds and pretty bodies on beaches as well as the Dune of Pyla, the largest sand dune (in the world? in Europe? in France? – I can’t remember) before hitting bad traffic and the mountains in Spain. We were entranced by seductive San Sebastien, which has a long luxurious half moon of beach as accessory to an elegant town of beautiful old buildings and plenty of new wealth. Feeling pasty and underdone, I waded through the bronzed bodies into the Bay of Biscay before getting back into our car in a relentless pursuit of art and modern architecture. We hit the motherlode (one of several) in the next town, when we swung around a curve off a mountain road and stared straight at the gleaming impossibility of the Guggenheim Bilbao. The museum sits like a beached ocean liner in a bend in Bilbao’s river and dwarfs everything around it, with the exception of the sentries guarding opposite sides - Jeff Koon’s flower-covered Puppy and Louis Bourgeois’s Maman spider. Our very hip hotel gave us a direct view of the building’s rear flank, a sight that was enhanced almost immediately after check in by a thunderstorm that swept across from the mountains. After watching the lightning sparkle and spend itself, we ventured out for dramatic close-ups of our new neighbor at night. Note in the pictures the bright modern bridge that Bilbao built as a companion piece – it flashes on and off at intervals, playfully reflecting off the museum’s metal surface. The next day we discovered not only the impressive interior and some very interesting art, especially the sculpture installation by Juan Munoz, but also the old town of Bilbao with ancient narrow streets, gracious plazas, and a market that transported us light years away from the Guggenheim.