The Guggenheim Museum metamorphosed Bilbao to a totally new energetic city, a visitor-friendly metropolis of glass and steel, with sheep grazing on the surrounding hills. But we also love the Bilbao that conserves its past, that harmonizes classical structures with the radically new. A city in which berets are worn jutting out and pulled down to one side – Bilbao-style, the traditional way – the city of pintxos and txikitos.
Each link weighing 400 kg, these magnificent chains could secure a supertanker or anchor an oil platform. Now they take pride of place outside the Bilbao Maritime Museum, a testimony to the importance of shipbuilding, maritime transport and the iron and steel industries to pre-Guggenheim Bilbao. These are the Vicinay Chains, and their final resting place is on the site where the Euskalduna shipyard once stood.
Some of them are so closely associated with Bilbao that they have become elements of a composite portrait, fragments of the city’s image. But the best-known among them — Jeff Koons’ Puppy, the monumental terrier made of flowers that stands guard outside the Guggenheim — is only one of almost 100 artworks that make up the city’s urban landscape. The sculpture in the image, Sites and Places, by Ángel Garraza, is located within Bilbao’s most artistic zip code, 48009, specifically in the Parque de la Ribera. It is part of the Paseo de la Memoria — “the memory promenade” — a garden-museum that traverses the city on the banks of the estuary, recalling the area’s industrial past.