A bit more of Bilbao

Saturday 29 June

Though staid on the outside, the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts

delivered where the Guggenheim didn’t. All subjective, I know.

The Museum had asked an author, Kirmen Uribe, to curate an exhibition of thirty-one rooms, one for each letter of the alphabet, including five Basque. He assigned each letter a theme, Art, Bilbao, Citizen and so on, then picked pieces – paintings, sculpture, film – to reflect the theme. From prehistory to contemporary art, it worked a treat.

‘Life’ contained this cheeky piece,

by Jaques Lipchitz, overseen,

by this Francis Bacon.

You get the idea. There were other exhibitions of two Spanish artists which I enjoyed, plus guest pieces hanging around,

these by Juan Muñoz,

and this ‘Suicide’ by Andrés Nagel.

After the gallery, I headed for the old town,

its narrow streets quiet in places but busier elsewhere.

I ate lunch across the Ria, the Bilbao Estuary, from the Guggenheim,

photogenic as it is.

Bilbao lies in a steep sided valley and, for this, is known as el botxo, the hole. Crossing the Ria are many bridges, both road and pedestrian, and as roads reach for the areas up the hills, they cross roads following the estuary, and are in turn crossed by bridges, spiralling walkways, or have the tram subway or pedestrian underpasses running underneath. I’ve never seen a city so difficult to negotiate on so many levels, often operating as one way streets. It has made exploring ‘interesting’.

Bilbao is messy, but its layered history, parks, waterside walks and prominent culture reward the effort.

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