The Guggenheim in Bilbao

By | Category: Travel destinations

Guggenheim – Bilbao. Image © Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa

If a destination gets it just right, one attraction will substantially boost the number of visitors it will see.

Orlando would probably be insignificant compared to the appeal that it has today with Disneyworld, Universal and other  attractions that have arrived since Disney develop its resort. Dubai might have remained off the antennas of tourists but for the concerted efforts of the emirate to develop a tourist magnet.

It isn’t quite the case with the Spanish city of Bilbao. But the opening of the Guggenheim Museum twenty years ago has transformed visitor numbers. Now about a million people will visit the museum alone. Prior to the opening it was less a 5% of that figure that visited the city at all.

When the Guggenheim opened, it attracted wide-spread attention not just because it was a famous name but because another famous name, Frank Gehry, had designed the museum. People came as much to see the collection as the architecture and whilst doing that, they explored the city.

In this anniversary year, even more visitors than ever before are likely to be attracted due to the additional publicity so it is only right that the museum has a blockbuster exhibition to maintain the level of visitor interest. Over the summer it has Paris, Fin de Siècle: Signac, Redon, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Their Contemporaries, an exhibition that has some 125 paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints that have come from private collections. Therefore most of the art on display has rarely been seen in public. Some of the artists on display will be Paul Signac, Odilon Redon, Pierre Bonnard, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Whilst visitors come for the museum they also see the other sites that Bilbao has on offer. But without the Guggenheim, fewer visitors would come. Without the Guggenheim and the Gehry architecture it would be even less.

Bilbao has shown what can be done. If we open new museums in the future outside major urban complexes, could the way forward be contracts with some of the biggest museum names in the world and placing it in new constructions with only the most beguiling architecture as well?

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