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Bilbao's commitment to artistic expression is intimately tied to the shift in the model of urban and economic development.

Not only is the Guggenheim Museum able to attract the most sophisticated contemporary art shows, but both the Fine Arts Museum and Bilbao Arte Foundation have also displayed a spectacular renewal, promoting programmes to produce and disseminate art of all types.


Art in the street

Wandering around Bilbao, one can enjoy works by artists who let their imagination fly, turning the city into a veritable open air museum.

Such artists as: Salvador DALI, Eduardo CHILLIDA, Jorge OTEIZA, Miquel NAVARRO, Manolo VALDES, Jeef KOONS, Louise BORGOISE, Vicente LARREA, and many more, offer a fresh and novel perspective to a number of sites around the city.


Urban Equipment

This section covers urban elements such as benches, litter bins, tree grates, street lights, bollards, bus-stops, signage, and so on.

Discover the city's identifiers, which more often than not go unnoticed.



The concept of design is so wide and varied that sometimes the boundary between art and other artistic disciplines becomes very thin, or even non-existent.

With design as its leitmotiv, this section is intended to be a hodgepodge of topics.


Bilbao Art District

Bilbao Art District is born, a joint initiative of the galleries, museums and art major agents of the city, with the participation, support and cooperation of the City of Bilbao and the Provincial Council of Biscay.




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Las columnas de Alhóndiga Bilbao

A great setting for art

“Behind columns people hide, they fall in love, they kiss… Behind columns people spy, they kill, a quote is born…” Philippe Stark’s reflection has come to life in the Atrium of Cultures of AlhóndigaBilbao. The 43 pillars holding up the three buildings symbolise, according to Lorenzo Baraldi, the millions of columns and the infinity of cultures, architectures, wars and religions man has gone through over history. The Italian theatrical designer has, in this space, brought to life the cinematographic vision of the designer of AlhóndigaBilbao in his particular interpretation of this place.

To enter the AlhóndigaBilbao atrium is to become lost on a journey through that cultural and geographical diversity which has influenced man’s transformation. There is no established order, no closed script to travel through this history. Every visitor can contribute their view, creating their own itinerary, awakening their capacity to invent histories. The only aspect governing the lay-out of these sculptures is the intention of not placing columns of a similar material or style together, so that each one has its own importance and just relevance. This journey is an opportunity to reflect on the importance art has in our lives, even when we are unaware of it.

The stage designer

Lorenzo Baraldi, stage designer by career, has used his great professional experience to materialise the idea and the sensations this space suggested to Philippe Starck. Once the concept had been defined, he resorted to the most skilful workshops and craftsmen to develop each column. That is why the pieces have come from Milan, Rome, Florence or Eibar.

800 sketches for 43 columns


Lorenzo Baraldi has involved himself to the utmost in endowing the pillars holding up the three buildings comprising AlhóndigaBilbao with life. The process of choosing the coating of the foundations began with a first stage of iconographic research of all the styles and forms that have existed, from ancient times through to today, including painting and sculptural expressions from very wide-ranging cultures. All of this work was translated into 800 sketches from which the choice of the 43 columns produced was made. Scale models of the selected designs were made to attain a better view of their impact and be able to make the necessary modifications.

The materials


Once the final designs had been chosen, the decisions were made on the materials to be used to build the columns. In some cases, the same model has been repeated with different materials, which enables viewers to discover the impact the material has on the final outcome. Firstly the oldest materials such as marble, brick, wood and bronze were chosen. Then, as a tribute to modern times, cement and steel. Lastly, it was proposed the use of two elements that have been employed for many centuries but which are practically unknown: Lecce stone and enamelled pottery.

The craftsmens

The craftsmen

The hands of 120 people have made this staging a reality. Operatives, sculptors, painters and architects have devoted both body and soul to a commission which, in many cases, represented a professional challenge. Hence, the columns are also a tribute to craftsmanship, to attention to detail, the most tradition way of working, although modern techniques have been employed in their manufacture.

The placement

Colocacion de columnas

Five months elapsed between the production of the columns and their location in the Atrium of Cultures. During the long trip most of them had to make, the utmost care was taken to avoid damage. The placement also incurred its own particular difficulty. In fact, the brick pillars were assembled on site, one by one, given that it was impossible to ship them in one piece.