The Guggenheim Will Stop at Nothing


Apparently having one of the most iconic museum buildings in the world and a cultural influence so strong it’s spawned its own cute phrase (the “Bilbao effect”) isn’t enough for the Spanish outpost of the Guggenheim juggernaut. The Museo Guggenheim Bilbao has just announced plans for a satellite expansion a scant 40 km from its existing Gehry-designed command center. The proposed site is located in the Basque region near Guernica, itself a cynosure for art historians after Picasso’s rendition of the 1937 bombing massacre there during the Spanish Civil War.

Which begs the question: blight on or much-needed economic catalyst to a pristine but underdeveloped coastal region? We break down the numbers after the jump.

Hey there, big fella.

The proposal, by the numbers:

€100 million: Amount pledged by the The Biscay Provincial Council for construction, only half the estimated cost of building the satellite venue.

200: Number of acres in Urdaibai estuary (a Unesco biosphere) currently owned by the Spanish bank BBK that are being considered for the venue’s lot

150,000: Estimate of annual number of visitors the museum would attract to the area around Guernica, which includes “prehistoric cave paintings, Roman ruins and archaeological sites, marble quarries, and fishing villages”

€465 million: Estimated economic activity of construction revenue plus income added to the local economy

30-40%: Percentage of additional operating costs that would eat into the Bilbao flagship’s annual €27 million budget

$800,000: Amount embezzled by the CFO of Guggenheim Bilbao last year

2013: Extremely optimistic estimate of when the Guggenheim in Urdaibai might open

So what do you think: Audacious but visionary expansion of a cultural flagship? Or a corporate concept stretched too thin?