Sculpture in Bilbao—Art Within an Industrial City

When visiting Bilbao, art is likely to be at the top of your list of things to see. This once-industrial powerhouse is now a hotbed for art. The famous Guggenheim Museum, now in its 21st year, still maintains its leadership position in the minds of tourists and art lovers alike. A rugged and impressive building on its own, it houses some of the most iconic sculptures found in Bilbao. Another side of Bilbao, however, is the variety of outdoor sculptures found throughout this art-centric city. Here are some of the most iconic monumental sculptures in Bilbao:

The Monument to Don Diego Lopez de Haro was the first public statue in Bilbao, built to honor Haro’s dedication to developing Bilbao as a commercial city. Created in 1890 by Mariano Benlliure, this bronze and stone work is nearly13 meters tall, and stands in the Plaza Circular.

Significant enough to be included in the city’s coat of arms, the Puente Antiguo de San Antón bridge, the current bridge connecting the two main parts of the city has been rebuilt several times in its ancient history.  Two had been built prior to the 1700’s, but the most recent one, built in 1877 was destroyed in the Civil War in 1937. The current bridge is known as Atxuri bridge.

Louise Bourgeouis’ ode to motherhood, Maman, stands watch behind the Guggenheim Museum, an abstract and almost eerie 9-meters tall guard. The bronze and stainless-steel work was installed in 1999, one of many spiders Bourgeouis created in her multi-decade career and may be the most iconic sculpture in the Bilbao museum.

The Muse is a limestone work by Enrique Barros with an interesting story. After the Spanish civil war, a previous nude sculpture was considered scandalous and not appropriate for public display. Muse replaced the work in 1948, build in honor of Basque musician Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga, and has been on display in a variety of areas over the years, including Dona Casilda Park, the Casilla Gardens, and now on Uribitate Avenue, where it has remained for the last 18 years. In an interesting twist, the original Muse (Arriaga Muse) was discovered in a basement and was restored to its original display location in 1975.

In a unique twist, Jeff Koons’ Puppy combines traditional sculpting materials with the ever-changing nature of live materials. Modern technology was utilized to create this oversized pooch, and the combination of animals and plants offers a fresh and invigorating view of art for visitors to the Guggenheim museum, where it stands out front. Twice each year, the plants are replaced, offering a new vision for this 11-year old sculpture.

Casilda de Iturrizar. Created by famed Spanish sculptor, Agustin Querol, this work honors the benefactor for the park in which it is featured. Querol received many prizes medals for his sculptural works, and his career spanned nearly 30 years.

Standing as a reminder of Bilbao’s significant industrial history, the red brick Chimney at Etxebarria Park reminds visitors of where Bilbao has come. Home to a steel factory for many years, the park is now a large green space; however, residents understand, and the chimney remains to honor Bilbao’s significance to the industrial revolution in Spain and the rest of Europe.

Bilbao is home to a variety of sculptures, both monumental and simply artistic. A tour of this industrial-turned-artistic city affords not only a lesson in the history and growth of this industrial city, but its dedication to art despite its manufacturing ways.