Sunday, 27 July 2014

Inside Wonderland: Guggenheim Bilbao Museum Part II

Inside Wonderland, a territory of Art and dream offered to us by the genius of  Frank Gehry.

After an attentive and fascinated stroll around the awesome building that the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum offers – and which has been described in our last feature – we ventured into its inside. In fact, it was with a feeling of reverence and excited anticipation that we stepped down the wide stairway leading to its entrance.

Getting inside the Hall and once the inevitable formalities were completed, we accessed the actual core of the Museum: the Atrium. The soaring, magnificent, light area immediately strikes visitors, who may have the feeling they have just entered some contemporary cathedral. People can be seen wandering aimlessly, listening to the explanations given through the phones provided at the ticket boxes, their heads turned up to follow the towering surfaces surrounding them, an uncontrollable expression of  astonishment on their faces.

The effect produced by Frank Gehry’s structure is such that even groups of visitors who got in together start to wonder all alone to appreciate this uncommonly striking work of art in their own rhythm and at their own pace. Taking in all the information and gazing at what lies in front of their eyes, people cannot avoid the impact of what surrounds them.

The remarkable features noticed on the outside of the building reverberate inside in a symphony of curved volumes, large glass curtain walls letting in the light that floods the whole space, culminating with a great skylight in the shape of a metal flower covering the Atrium. It is around this ample space that the three levels of this sinuous, sensual structure are organised, connected by curved walkways, titanium and glass lifts, and staircases. This Atrium, the true heart of the Museum and one clearly bearing Frank Gehry’s characteristic traits, is the axis around which twenty different galleries function, all of them featuring specific shapes, from classical layouts to organic, irregular lines, so as to offer an uncommon versatility which makes them ideal to house the great variety of contemporary artistic productions.

We have noticed that the several works of art on permanent display outside the structure of the Museum by Louise Bourgeois, Eduardo Chillida, Yves Klein, Jeff Koons, or Fujiko Nakaya can all be seen from the inside, thus offering a different perspective of these art pieces and making visitors feel they are actually on exhibition in the Museum.

Three major temporary exhibitions were on when we visited the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum: Selections from the Guggenheim Bilbao Collection IV (through August 31, 2014), Yoko One. Half-a-Wind Show. Retrospective (until September 4, 2014) and Georges Braque (June 13, 2014 - September 21, 2014).

A permanent exhibition particularly impressed us for the perfect symbiosis it featured with the building of the Museum: The Matter of Time, by Richard Serra (1994-2005), eight sculptures in weathering steel and variable dimensions, mainly featuring curved surfaces. In fact, the different sections of this installation evolve from the relative simplicity of a double ellipse to the complexity of a spiral, which seem to unexpectedly transform in front of one’s eyes as visitors walk through and around them, thereby creating an uncommon feeling of space.

All in all, the inside of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum only enhances the impact of the first impression this amazing work of art has on visitors, for it actually gives the feeling that they are stepping into some kind of a Wonderland – Frank Gehry’s own territory.

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