Bilbao One Year Anniversary: Unprecedented Success

Bilbao One Year Anniversary: Unprecedented Success


Visitorship Surpasses 1.3 Million, More Than Tripling Attendance Projections

Just one year after opening, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has completely transformed its host city by surpassing all projections for visitorship. Hailed by critics as an architectural masterpiece, the museum and its dynamic program of exhibitions have met with unprecedented success.

Since its opening to the public on October 19, 1997, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has attracted 1.36 million visitors, tripling attendance projections made before the museum opened. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has become the second-most popular museum in Spain, second only to the Prado Museum in Madrid in annual visitorship. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has served as a magnet for international tourism to Bilbao and the Basque region. According to a visitor survey, more than 1 million people (79% of all visitors) travelled to Bilbao expressly to see the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

In addition, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao generated more than $198 million in tourism revenues. By generating increased tourism, the museum has also created a powerful economic "multiplier effect," with tourists who visit the Guggenheim also spending money on accommodation, food, and other aspects of their trips.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has also succeeded in realizing the model of a public-private cultural partnership. With more than 9,000 individual members and 100 corporate members, the museum has established the largest membership program of any museum in Spain.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is one of the major elements of a $1.5 billion comprehensive redevelopment project undertaken by the Basque administration that includes major projects designed by some of the world's most renowned architects. Already, the landscape of Bilbao has been changed by a new subway system designed by Sir Norman Foster and a footbridge over the Nervi-n River designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

Exhibition ProgramThe museum has featured a dramatic program during its first year. The museum's inaugural exhibition, The Guggenheim Museums and the Art of this Century, included more than 300 works from the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. This opening exhibition featured the first holdings of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao's new permanent collection, which included 25 newly acquired works by international artists. The second exhibition, China:5,000 Years, showcased the most extraordinary gathering of art from mainland China ever assembled. This unprecedented exhibition attracted more than 500,000 visitors in just three months.

Upcoming exhibitions include Cristina Iglesias, featuring sculptures and silkscreens by the noted Basque artist, and Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective, a comprehensive examination of one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.

Public Programs
The museum has created a tremendously successful education program, reaching nearly 130,000 people during its first year of operation. Educational outreach has included 5,000 guided tours offered in numerous different languages, art courses for members, student workshops, a Learning Through Art program modeled after the award-winning in-school program developed by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, educators' and family guides, and a range of other educational programs and materials.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has also successfully launched a unique three-floor museum store, which features products related to the Guggenheim Museums in Bilbao, New York, Berlin, and Venice. The museum has opened a highly regarded on-site restaurant, which features the cuisine of Basque chef Martin Berasategui. The auditorium, which accommodates 300, has been used for both educational activities and for corporate events.

Tickets to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao can now be purchased in advance, to help minimize long admissions lines. The advance ticket sales system was introduced in July and offers an increasing number of purchase points throughout Spain.

November 2, 1998

Project Director
International Projects
Telephone: 212/423-3899
Telefax: 212/423-3787

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