Journey to Bilbao, Spain, and the city’s celebrated Guggenheim Museum, and you’ll no doubt find yourself charmed by the modern-art museum’s ‘pet’ exhibit, Puppy. The 12 meter-tall canine (about 40 feet), modeled after a West Highland White Terrier pup, is comprised of thousands of flowers. It stands guard in front of the shimmering Guggenheim Museum, which was designed by architect Frank Gehry, and opened in 1997.
While I’m sure Puppy is probably effective at eliciting smiles from most passersby, I was especially fond of the flowery topiary since it reminded me of childhood dogs, Jenny and Bonnie, both Westies and real-life versions of Puppy. Puppy’s creator, Jeff Koons, used computer modeling to design Puppy, and when we visited, the canine sported blooms ranging from begonias, to marigolds and petunias.
Walking around the titanium, glass, and limestone exterior of the museum, we also glimpsed other creative sculptures – ranging from a gargantuan spider, to glimmering stacked balls, and a bouquet of fluorescent tulips. Inside, I found myself most taken by two works of art: The Matter of Time by Richard Serra and The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson. The former is made of large curved sheets of weathered steel, which create a maze of sorts, and fascinating acoustics. These features invite visitors to get lost among them, and perhaps even hum a tune to see how sound bounces off the sculpted forms.
The Visitors, on the other hand, is a video installation featuring nine different screens. (Unlike The Matter of Time, it is just a temporary exhibition.) Walking into the room in the middle of the 64-minute program, we were introduced to nine different characters – each playing a musical instrument in a different room of a classic upstate New York home. In one room, for example, a man played a guitar in a bathtub; in a living room, a man tickled the ivories of a stately grand piano, and in a formal parlour, a woman passionately belted out the tune on an accordion. What united the actors is that they sang or played the same song, making observers feel as though they were perhaps attending a concert, or even pacing from room to room to glimpse the activity in each sumptuous interior. I loved how it invited participants to physically move from screen to screen, in a choose-your-own-adventure fashion.
While some of the exhibitions inside did not appeal to me quite as much as Kjartansson and Serra’s work, we appreciated how the museum’s holdings got us thinking more creatively. And just as it’s worthwhile to visit the Guggenheim at different times of day to observe how its exterior changes color under varying types of light, we never grew tired of seeing Puppy.
Where in the World?
- See the Guggenheim Museum website for opening hours and details about current exhibits.
- Also, peruse the Bilbao Tourism Board and Basque Country Tourism websites for noteworthy spots to visit throughout Bilbao and the Basque Country.
Thanks & Disclosure:
The Bilbao Tourism Board hosted us on a walking tour of the city, and the Guggenheim Museum offered us complimentary tickets to enjoy the museum.
To them we say Eskerrik asko – or simply, thank you.
Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.