When the Guggenheim Bilbao was created in 1997, its director, Juan Ignacio Vidarte (Bilbao, 1956), he was young but he was struggling at the controls. He had already been coordinating the start-up project for five years, and even today he has not abandoned ship. So both paths, that of the museum and that of his professional career, have ended up becoming one. Assessing this double trajectory, he highlights the objectives achieved: “The Guggenheim has established itself as a benchmark cultural institution. Since he arrived in Bilbao, he has helped the city in the cultural, urban and economic spheres, and has given it a more contemporary personality and an external projection”. In other words, that imitated and irreproducible thing called the ‘Guggenheim effect’, and which is now celebrated with Sections / intersectionsan ambitious exhibition that begins in a reduced version on September 6 to be expanded during the following weeks.
It is not easy to summarize 25 years in five key moments, so Vidarte begins with something that happened a little earlier. It was in Bilbao, on December 13, 1991, with the signing of the first agreement between the Basque institutions and the Guggenheim Foundation. “A historic moment. The project was finally going to be realized after intense months of discussions. We met in the Palace of the Diputación, where we had a model of what would later be the building of Frank Gehry. On behalf of the Guggenheim came Thomas Krensdirector of the Foundation, and his employer Gianni DeMicheliswho was also the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy”.
The second milestone is the opening in 1997. But Vidarte does not recall the official gala on October 18, which was attended, among others, by the king and queen, the lehendakari Ardance either Hope Aguirre, then Minister of Culture, but the next morning, when the public entered. Through the transparent glass doors she saw how the first large queue was forming: “The entire museum team was waiting in the lobby, expectantly.” Very different emotions were condensed, since a few days before the ertzaina Jose Maria Aguirre He had been assassinated by ETA when he prevented an attack from being carried out. Today the square in front of the museum, where the sculpture is, bears his name. Puppyof Jeff Koons.