Friday, June 10, 2011

Report from Bilbao

(click on image to enlarge)

Guard Puppy on Duty
Watercolour, crayon and computer
©2011 Charlene Brown

From Puycelsi, we drove to Toulouse and then along the Haute Pyrenees, and decided to stop for the night in Matiena-Abadino, which is Spanish for ‘major T-junction on the side of a mountain.’ It is where the tractor-trailer drivers of Spain take the fleet every night to hone their braking and darting-left-turn skills. The place was so entertaining we decided to stay for two nights… This isn’t as dumb as it sounds, as Matiena-Abadino worked well at what it was intended to do – we wanted an easy drive into Bilbao in the morning, then back to the same place in the evening for a headstart on the drive back to France.
Meanwhile, back to our main purpose in going to Bilbao, to see the then-new Guggenheim… I had the foolishly optimistic idea they would have a series of signs pointed the way to the place, starting as soon as we hit town. And guess what? They did! And they were bright pink so they were pretty easy to spot. Everything everyone says about the odd location of the place is true – the architect’s explanation is that the whole city of Bilbao is a sculpture, and placing this new sculpture on a curve in the river makes complete sense – but it’s right next to a huge container storage yard and partially under a bridge! In fact, we were on that very bridge, going at highway speed, when we looked down and realized we’d found it. All we had to do was a flying right turn past the biggest sculpture of a puppy (covered with 60,000 flowering plants) you’ve ever seen, and we were there. What a place! They have access to the Guggenheim Foundation collection so their installations are pretty terrific, but it’s the building itself that you want to spend the day looking at. They encourage you to stroke the walls, even the exterior cladding, which is titanium of all things. The effect is totally organic – surprising as the components were all designed by computers and created by robots!