Last week I was in Bilbao and took the opportunity to visit the Guggenheim. I was of the impression that the building greatly outshone the works inside until I found myself on the ground floor and confronted with the most impressive set of installations I have ever come across:
These eight steel mazes amazed me. Some were spirals, others shell-like, others parallel sheets. Richard Serra, the artist responsible, plays with concave and convex curves in the steel to create truly memorable short walks in which, after just a few minutes, you lose all sense of direction and perspective. Richard pressed these plates so they had took on organic forms: concave at the top, convex at the bottom, or vice versa: the shape of waves. Sometimes walking through them the space became claustrophobic, other times it opened up like the light at the end of the cave. I wandered through them wild eyed and disoriented like a child after a fast ride on a roundabout. Some I went back to and walked through again.
Then I watched the very good videos about the artist's vision and the logistics of making, shipping and installing these pieces, went and had lunch, then came back in the gallery to do another tour of the installations. I can't remember spending the best of four hours in a gallery. Usually I am sated after two hours.
I was in awe of the dimensions of these installations. The steel plates are the thickness of my thumb (lets say 10cm), almost 3m high and up to 30m long. That's big pieces of metal. I starting thinking about the human effort that went into making them. How much did they weigh? How did I get them there? Etc. When I watched the background information I was truly stunned.