The Guggenheim museum will remain in Bilbao for the foreseeable future. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced yesterday that it was renewing the agreement is has with the Basque museum until 2034. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has welcomed almost 17 million visitors and staged over 140 exhibitions since it opened in 1997; and has had much success over the 17 years that is has engaged with the public. In fact the museum success quickly triggered the redevelopment of the formerly decrepit port area of Bilbao and bolstered tourism in the entire Basque Country.
The regeneration of the area and the economic evolution of the country was coined the “Guggenheim effect” soon after to describe this museum-led process.
The term, however, has also been employed by critics who have denounced the museum as a symbol of gentrification and cultural imperialism. The Wall Street Journal suggested that the ‘Guggenheim effect’ should be called the Bilbao anomaly, “for the iconic chemistry between the design of building, its image and the public turns out to be rather rare.”
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation selected Frank Gehry as the architect, for the creation of the museum, and its director, Thomas Krens, encouraged him to design something daring and innovative. The curves on the exterior of the building were intended to appear random; the architect said that “the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light”. The interior “is designed around a large, light-filled atrium with views of Bilbao’s estuary and the surrounding hills of the Basque country”. The atrium of the museum, Gehry nicknamed The Flower because of its shape, and serves as the centre of the building.
Bilbao was the first of a series of high-profile museum commissions for the architect, the latest of which is the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris, which launched last October.
“We are delighted that our collaboration with colleagues in Bilbao, which has been so successful for more than 20 years, will continue for two more decades,” said Richard Armstrong, the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. “The terms of the agreement create exciting new opportunities that will benefit both institutions, our professional staff, and the growing public on site and online who enjoy the Guggenheim Bilbao.”