Museums in Basque Country
Not to be missed are the Fine Arts museum in Bilbao and the Balenciaga Museum (shown above and below in a gallery of images) near San Sebastian in the village of Getaria which was Balenciaga's home and where he is buried. Sure, the Guggenheim Bilbao gets all the attention, but the Fine Arts Museum (Museo des Bellas Artes) has excellent exhibitions and is architecturally interesting in its own right (international style modernism). For info and an itinerary, click here and here.
When we were there, we had the good fortune of catching an exhibition on The 50s: Fashion in France which was outstanding and well-curated showing process and finished pieces. Great collection of Dior. It was a perfect precursor to our visit to the Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa. The design of the building in and of itself is worth seeing. The building has a sordid history where design is concerned (ugh. competitions, personal relationships and public processes - you can read all about it here.) Designed originally by a Cuban-American architect, Julián Argilagos, the over-budget, not meeting expectations project was shelved a bit. AV62Arquitectos won a competition to set the project right.
The article linked above is really ungenerous, and I disagree with it completely. I loved the space. I thought it was a perfect counterpoint and setting for Balenciaga's work which was about volume, detail, precision and multiple ideas in one piece. I loved how the collections were featured - basically in boxes with perfect lighting - set within this voluminous building. This worked for me in terms of the precision within volume of a number of Balenciaga's designs. I also enjoyed the variety of space and scale within the building - big open space for big impact then on to smaller more concentrated spaces to zoom in. Again, that says fashion to me - visual impact, then focus on detail.
Bottom line: It's worth the trip to see the remarkable work of Balenciaga and the museum.