In her recent book “Txoriburu”, the writer and illustrator Asun Balzola describes how her natal city was in the 40’s. She says that for her, the most curious fact of the Guggenheim effect is that “people has made it theirs, they don’t see the museum as a thing of some people in New York, but as theirs”. Plus, “the most encouraging thing is that the young people are their first fans. When you are inside of the building the light, the spirals of its architecture make the things inside just there, you can almost visit it empty and it would be the same”. Without a doubt, she concludes, the Guggenheim “has revived Bilbao, because you can see it from a lot of places. You are going around the streets and all of the sudden you can see this mount in front of you and the titanium roofs. Its amazing”.
On October 18th of 1997, the king Juan Carlos, the president of the foundation, the architect and the authorities inaugurated the museum in front of the eyes of 10,000 curious people. In its first month, a hundred thousand people met the Guggenheim, making it the third most visited museum of Spain, after El Prado and Reina Sofia, both in Madrid. Besides, of the 70,000 visitants in the first eight months (the most optimistic calculations were estimating 40,000 in a year), almost one of very four was foreign.
Eighty private companies compromised to collaborate with the museum in some way and 86 of every 100 visitors expressed the means to come back: the Guggenheim Effect was born.
Now a days, they are offering weekends special in Milan, London, to visit this colossal of glass and titanium. Taking advantage of the renovations of the airport, airlines of countries like Portugal, Belgium or Germany multiply their connections with Bilbao. Luxury Cruises dock alongside the old fishing life in the city port, where their passengers get surprised by the welcoming they receive. In what used to be a port area in which cargo containers were poling up waiting to be chartered, now arises the last grand new museum built in the 20th Century, maximum exponent of the city’s new identity.
For the first time in a long time, this population of a mostly gray and humid climate is noticed by all the world for something that is not the kidnapers or terrorist violence.