The Guggenheim Bilbao Could Be Getting a Satellite of Its Own

The museum’s director has visited potential sites near Guernica, but plans for a Guggenheim Bilbao satellite remain subject to funding.

Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry
Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

The Guggenheim Bilbao is looking to expand. The museum’s director general, Juan Ignacio Vidarte, is scouting possible locations to build a satellite. So far, he has visited three potential sites—a former factory, a working shipyard, and football field—near Guernica, which is around 20 miles northeast of the Frank Gehry-designed museum. Other potential locations are also being considered, artnet News understands. 

Plans for a “Guggenheim 2” in the Basque Country have been under consideration for more than a decade, but they were shelved during the recession. Nevertheless, the desire to create space for art and experiences that don’t fit neatly into Gehry’s titanium-clad building remains strong. The museum included the development a satellite in its latest strategic plan, which was finalized at the end of last year.

“A non-contiguous expansion of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao” is high on the museum’s list of goals, the plan states. The satellite project originally shelved in 2009 would have increased exhibition space “in a novel and unique type of museum experience, combining art, nature, and the beauty of the landscape in a non-urban setting.” Reviving the expansion would “strengthen ties to some of the most prestigious contemporary artists [the museum] has worked with over the years,” it notes.

The Guggenheim Bilbao isn’t just hoping to expand its footprint, however—it also wants to grow its collection. The museum, which celebrated its 20th birthday last year, wants to “enrich” its holdings, which currently include major works by Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, Anselm Kiefer, and Louise Bourgeois, among others. It has been impossible to allocate funds for new acquisitions in recent years, the museum notes in its strategic plan.

The fate of new acquisitions, commissions, and an off-site expansion will all depend on whether the museum can raise additional money. A decade ago, the estimated cost of a Guggenheim Bilbao 2 was around €133 million ($163 million), according to the newspaper El Independiente. Today, an expansion would still require the backing of the Basque government, which, along with the city of Bilbao, provided public funding for the original Gehry-designed building and permanent collection.

The Guggenheim Bilbao isn’t the only local museum looking to expand. Miguel Zugaza, the former director of the Prado in Madrid and current director of the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, has the green light from the mayor of Bilbao to draw up a budget for the expansion of the city’s fine art museum, El Independiente reports.

A spokeswoman for the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao acknowledged that the satellite is included in the strategic plan but declined to comment further because the project remains in its early stages.


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