Guggenheim Bilbao: A Chameleon Silver-Flying Fish

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a review: there is nothing in the galley halls that matches the architectural sculpture of Frank Gehry’s masterpiece.

Sketching the Guggenheim Bilbao provides it’s challenges; there is not a straight line in the building. The sketch starts in one place and then ends in another. The organic nature of the architecture dictates a less systematic approach that can leave the sketch a little  disoriented. It seems to be a building that is impossible to truly capture. Its curvaceous lines and the color of the titanium sides, mirrors the ambient colors that are constantly changing with the overcast skies that shift to sunshine, then rain, and back to the grey skies of the Basque Country.The Guggenheim is a chameleon silver-flying fish that cannot be defined in the halls of science.


Jeff Koons ‘”Puppy”

After two attempts to capture this strange beast (interrupted by the ubiquitous Basque rain), I settled for a much more agreeable Bilbao icon to sketch. The dog that “guards” the contemporary art museum: Jeff Koons’ flower sculpture, known to the locals simply as “puppy”.

I again became part of the scenery and experience to a bunch of French teenagers and a geriatric, cane-wielding, beret-wearing Basque, the Spanish love their daily afternoon constitutionals. He looked at my painting and commented, “¡El perro!” I’m still trying to determine if it was a statement of fact, a question, or a bit of art criticism.

I think this is one of my favorite sketches from Spain. It was very loose and freeing to use a wet on wet technique and let the unpredictable nature of watercolor do what is does best. I call it organized chaos.


One of the pieces that matches the magnificence of Gehry’s Guggenheim, Richard Serra’s sculpture: Snake.

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