“Juan Ignacio Vidarte”

Back to Bilbao

October 19th 1997, the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, opens its doors to the public for the first time. From the subsequent architectural frenzy to the growth of the brand, we take a look at the flagship of cultural globalisation 20 years after the inauguration of Frank Gehry’s emblematic design. Happy Birthday Guggenheim Bilbao!   Today, Guggenheim is more than a surname; it’s a brand – a trademark whose global reach and mainstream position have ensured untouchable success. The formula is simple; to build locally and exhibit globally. As has been the case for 58 years now, the dialectic is straightforward, yielding striking results. From New York to Bilbao (passing via Venice), the golden triangle of the masterpiece trend is off the scale. Things have not always been plain-sailing and there have inevitably been some challenges along the way in Guggenheim’s quest to increase their global presence. Whilst the New York flagship, anchored on Fifth Avenue, has stood the test of time since 1959, and the Venier dei Leoni, on the Grand Canal, Venice, has been home to the Peggy Guggenheim collection for more than thirty-five years, conversely, the SoHo (New York) arm closed in 2001 and Las Vegas’ Hermitage Museum followed suit in 2008. The Berlin Guggenheim, known for its radical minimalism (its entire exhibition space was open plan), closed its doors for the last time in 2013. The Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, home of many important pieces, was also forced to close, unable to overcome the multiple hurdles in its path. These closures in quick succession – the woeful result of a mismatched marriage of art and money – were difficult setbacks to recover from. Other Guggenheim projects didn’t even get off the ground; firstly in Guadalajara, Mexico, then in Vilnius, Lithuania, projects for two further museums were quashed....

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