Our room here in Bilbao is almost too small to exercise in. In fact it is barely bigger than our bed. We’ve been averaging 8 or 9 miles a day of walking so we’ll let the morning exercises slip for a few days. We had a café near our place and then walked to Cafe Iruña, the oldest café in Bilbao according to something Peggi read, for more café, tortilla and fresh squeezed orange juice.
We bought tickets for the Guggenheim online and we started with the Richard Serra installation. He has his own wing here in Frank Gehry’s space age castle. I was reminded of my first encounter with Serra, an article in Art Forum about the controversy surrounding his “Titled Arc,” commissioned by the city of New York and eventually dismantled when people complained about having to walk around it on their way to work. The pieces here, all giant slabs of steel, gracefully shaped into forms that invited you in, reminded me of the fun house at Sea Breeze Amusement Park. I was a little bothered by the clash with Gehry’s organic setting, wondering if it was any better than a white cube, but that’s being way too picky. This was tour de force. Like every major museum in the world, the Guggenheim has a Picasso show timed with the fiftieth year since his passing. This one was all sculpture from all his periods and it was a sensation. The museum installed this show with a generous amount of space, allowing you to move freely around the work. Finally, someone here curated an absolutely beautiful show of the Museum’s collection, a Sol LeWitt installation, Motherwell, Tapies, Oteiza and more Chillida!
We had lunch/dinner at a seafood place nearby. We split una ensalada verde, gambas al ajillo and sea bass (the whole fish). We had walked by the Museo Bilbao yesterday and someone outside said the museum was closed for the installation of a new show. They told us to “Come back tomorrow,” so that was our next stop. The Museo paired centuries old artists like Morales, Ribera, Velazquez with artists from the last century. Some really nice Saura’s and Oteiza sculptures.
From the Museo we walked across the river into the Casco Viejo, the old section. We had a beer at an outdoor café, a “1906,” the especial cerveza from Estrella Galicia. When we were here in the nineties Bilbao was celebrating their big yearly festival and we watched a parade with gigantescas in this old section. We stopped at a bookstore and chatted with the. owner. He confirmed our assessment. Nearby San Sebastián is idyllic but Bilbao is for real. San Sebastián is aristocratic and Bilbao knows how to have fun.