In the Basque Region of Spain: Art, Culture and a Puppy That Blooms
It’s not every beach stroll that leads to a modernist masterpiece, let alone one set in the sea amid crashing waves.
After a bracing walk along the esplanade beside Ondarreta Beach in San Sebastián, Spain, I coaxed my family to keep going until we arrived at the western edge of La Concha Bay. There, anchored into the rocks and bashed by waves, was the 20th-century Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida’s “El Peine del Viento” (the Comb of the Wind): three nine-ton, rust-covered sculptures. They resembled monumental claws or talons reaching out, trying to connect — a potent symbol of Basque endurance over the centuries.
It was also a sign to my husband and 11-year-old twins, Freddie and Frida, that we’d be spending the weekend seeking out art in some unusual places.
With its wildly vertiginous and verdant landscape and proud heritage, the Basque region has long been a place I’ve wanted to explore with my family. So in February, we spent three crisp, sunny, culture-focused days driving from San Sebastián to Bilbao with several worthwhile stops in between.
By the second day, my kids didn’t want our adventure to end.
Driving into town earlier that day, past the grandly ornate buildings lining the final stretch of the Urumea River before it reaches the sea, Freddie declared San Sebastián “pretty cool” when he spied groups of kids carrying surfboards and heading toward the beach as they dodged fur-coat-clad shoppers hurrying along the sidewalks. With its world-renowned culinary scene, film festival and stunning natural setting on a crescent-shaped cove, San Sebastián can tick a lot of boxes for visitors with widely varying tastes. Even in February, the beach was buzzing, though only surfers in wet suits and dogs chasing sticks ventured into the water.
The city’s museums were alive with a similar mix of youthful energy and old-school European cultural appreciation. Tabakalera, a giant multipurpose art space inside a former cigarette factory, features exhibitions, film series and huge open-space lounges — some with table tennis and other amusements. It’s a place where kids can be exposed to accessible culture, but still have room to run around. There is also a vast library, a pizzeria and, on the top floor, a restaurant called LABe run by students at the Basque Culinary Center, so it can be a full-day experience.
On a rainy day, Tabakalera could be a lifesaver for a visiting family. But it was sunny during our visit, and the city’s cathedral, with its vast expanses of jewel-toned stained glass, was especially beautiful. This summer we’ll be making a trip back to San Sebastián — both to swim in that beautiful cove and to see the Lighthouse, a monumental sculpture inside a derelict lighthouse on the city’s picturesque Santa Clara Island. The Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias dug up the floor of the structure and recreated in bronze the geological features of the rock beneath it. Reached by boat, it’s only open from June through late September.
Unexpectedly, the San Telmo Museum, which we assumed would be a display of regional pride, turned out to be a highlight of our trip and, like the city itself, had something for everyone. Though one enters through a small, minimalist glass-and-concrete pavilion, the museum is built around a staggeringly beautiful Gothic monastery cloister with elaborately carved stone arches. Opening a side door to the dark and moody chapel, I was blown away to discover vast murals by one of my favorite Spanish artists, José Maria Sert, whose best-known works were sometimes painted on gold or silver leaf, and are more typically encountered in glamorous settings like Rockefeller Center or the palatial homes of wealthy clients rather than somber monastery chapels.
Around the corner were shimmering suits of armor, swords, maces and other weapons, which Frida — currently enamored of all things medieval — explained to us in all their lethal goriness.
Freddie’s most frequent question upon entering a museum is: “Do they have any cars?” Indeed, this museum did — groovy 1970s ones (along with scooters and bicycles). The vehicles highlighted the Basque region’s role in modernizing Spanish society from the 1960s to the ’80s, during the final years of the Franco dictatorship and the beginning of the country’s democracy. Going further back in time, a display of more than a dozen examples of the bizarrely elaborate 17th-century linen headwear traditionally worn by married and widowed women had Frida perplexed enough to declare (and not for the first time) that she would never marry.
At the opposite pole of this potpourri of regional art is Chillida Leku, a space dedicated to the oeuvre of just one artist, Eduardo Chillida, whose monumental sculptural works — including variations of “El Peine del Viento,” which we saw on the beach the day before — are in (or often in front of) major art museums around the world. In the 1980s, the artist purchased the property — which is near the town of Hernani on the outskirts of San Sebastián and includes a 16th-century farmhouse — to create a compendium of his works installed both indoors and outside for pastoral contemplation. And even with two kids running around the grass trying to scare each other by jumping out from behind the artist’s massive yet elementally simple steel or stone or concrete sculptures, Chillida Leku (leku means “place” in Basque) provided delicious hours of just that. I was particularly struck by the way some of the largest sculptures branched out at the top and seemed to reach for one another but never touch, like many of the ancient trees nearby.
Inside the beautifully restored stone and wood farmhouse, a gallery attendant named Anabel got us all talking about the sculptures and provided a wealth of fascinating details about the artist, such as the fact that he trained for years with the local blacksmith — which explains why some of his early works incorporate elements of farm tools.
The seaside hamlet of Getaria, about 30 minutes west of San Sebastián, may be tiny, but it gave the world two titans who changed history in one fashion or another. The first was Juan Sebastiáno Elcano, the Spanish explorer who completed the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1522 after Ferdinand Magellan was killed midvoyage in what is now the Philippines. He made it back to Spain after some 1,200 days at sea, returning with just one ship and only 19 men (five ships and some 265 crewmen departed Spain in 1519). He is a celebrated hero in his homeland, but is largely unknown outside Spain, where credit for the voyage goes almost entirely to Magellan.
In contrast, Getaria’s other native son has a name that is known far and wide and has become a global brand. Cristóbal Balenciaga — the couturier whom Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and other designers considered, in Dior’s words, “the master of us all” — was born here to a local fisherman and a seamstress in 1895. By his teens, he had clients among the Spanish nobility and eventually the royal family. He moved to Paris during the Spanish Civil War, where his talent and list of clients became legendary.
To great fanfare, the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum opened in Getaria (in the former palace of his most ardent early client) in 2011, bringing the rarefied world of haute couture to this quaint village. Many of the stunning dresses on display were donated by the likes of Princess Grace of Monaco; the American philanthropist Rachel Mellon, known as Bunny; Balenciaga’s friend and protégé, Hubert de Givenchy; and other beau monde figures. It’s a fun romp for kids through the dimly lit galleries of fanciful clothing from a different age. This year’s exhibition, “Balenciaga Character,” focuses on the essence of his designs and what made them so innovative and beautiful that other designers felt almost obligated to follow his lead for decades.
How many UNESCO World Heritage sites allow you to drive your car on them? Heading farther west from Getaria, we bypassed downtown Bilbao and went straight to Las Arenas, the posh seaside enclave where the Nervión River meets the Bay of Biscay. Our goal was to see (and use) the Vizcaya Bridge, a pioneering type of suspension bridge built in 1893 and recognized by UNESCO in 2006. It was designed by Alberto de Palacio y Elissagüe (who also designed the iconic Atocha rail station in Madrid). The brief was to create a link between the towns of Guecho and Portugalete on opposite sides of the river without impeding the shipping traffic that was crucial to Bilbao’s booming steel industry. Palacio’s novel design was not a roadway but a suspended gondola that today shuttles about eight cars and a fair number of pedestrians across the river in one minute — as thrilling for my husband and me as it was for the kids. The deck supporting the gondola is more than 150 feet above the water, so even today’s tankers, aircraft carriers and a few airplanes have managed to get under it.
Back when it opened, there were set fares for pigs, cattle and funerals — today it’s just cars, scooters, bikes and pedestrians (1 euro, or a little over a $1, round-trip for pedestrians). As we approached the soaring tower on the Portugalete side of the river, Freddie squeezed my hand and said, “This is the best day ever” — words he also uttered amid the giant redwoods of the Sequoia National Park in California.
Ever since the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Bilbao opened in 1997, the city has occupied an important perch on the European cultural travel circuit. Many kids will go bonkers over the giant floral puppy, a large petunia-based sculpture by Jeff Koons that stands in front of the museum. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll want to know about the nearby “water park,” a fountain with variable jets of water spouting from the ground, where children and adults can cool off in the midday heat.
Whatever exhibitions are on view (until May 28, there’s a beautiful Joan Miró painting exhibition focused on the artist’s early years in Paris), a ride up the glass elevators in Gehry’s torquey, bendy central lobby is enough to satisfy most kids. Do not miss the long gallery of monumental spiral sculptures by Richard Serra; exploring the mazelike spaces created by the circular steel walls is, I’ve found, a home run for children.
By the time we got to Bilbao’s maritime museum, Itsasmuseum, we were pretty exhausted, and I told the ticket seller we’d be in and out in 30 minutes. In the end, the guards had to move us out at closing time as we were so engaged with the displays of antique model ships and paintings of historic shipwrecks. There are also more modern exhibitions about surf culture and the role of the river and the sea in Bilbao’s development, as well as what’s being done in the city to adapt to global warming and preserve the ecosystem that’s been its lifeblood. In warmer weather, a small dry dock in front of the museum allows visitors to explore various types of vessels in use on the city’s waterways.
Like San Sebastián, Bilbao has its own vast multipurpose cultural center in the Azkuna Zentroa Alhóndiga, a former wine and olive oil warehouse that sat empty for 30 years until the architect Philippe Starck reimagined it as a library, exhibition space and gym, where there are two indoor pools on the roof that anyone can visit for a few euros per day.
And splashing around in pools designed by Mr. Starck — one of which has a glass floor that looks down on the galleries below — counts as a cultural activity, no matter your age.
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The Art Collection of David Bowie: An Introduction – Open Culture
Today, it hardly surprises us when a successful, wealthy, and influential rock star has a large art collection. But David Bowie, ahead of the culture even at the outset of his career, began accruing art well before success, wealth, or influence. He put out his debut album when he was twenty years old, in 1967, and didn’t hesitate to create a “rock star” lifestyle as soon as possible thereafter. As the world now knows, however, rock stardom meant something different to Bowie than it did to the average mansion-hopping, hotel room-trashing Concorde habitué. When he bought art, he did so not primarily as a financial investment, nor as a bid for high-society respectability, but as a way of constructing his personal aesthetic and intellectual reality.
Bowie kept that project going until the end, and it was only in 2016, the year he died, that the public got to see just what his art collection included. The occasion was Bowie/Collector, a three-part auction at Sotheby’s, who also produced the new video above. It examines Bowie’s collection through five of its works that were particularly important to the man himself, beginning with Head of Gerda Boehm by Frank Auerbach, about which he often said — according to his art buyer and curator Beth Greenacre — “I want to sound like that painting looks.” Then comes Portrait of a Man by Erich Heckel, whose paintings inspired the recordings of Bowie’s acclaimed “Berlin period”: Low, “Heroes,” Lodger, and even Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, which Bowie produced.
As we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture, Bowie also loved furniture, none more so than the work of the Italian design collective known as Memphis. This video highlights his red Valentine typewriter, a pre-Memphis 1969 creation of the group’s co-founder Ettore Sottsass. “I typed up many of my lyrics on that,” Bowie once said. “The pure gorgeousness of it made me type.” Much later, he and Brian Eno were looking for ideas for the album that would become Outside, a journey that took them to the Gugging Institute, a Vienna psychiatric hospital that encouraged its patients to create art. He ended up purchasing several pieces by one patient in particular, a former prisoner of war named Johann Fischer, enchanted by “the sense of exploration and the lack of self-judgment” in those and other works of “outsider” art.
The video ends with a mask titled Alexandra by Beninese artist Romuald Hazoum, whom Bowie encountered on a trip to Johannesburg with his wife Iman. Like many of the artists whose work Bowie bought, Hazoumè is now quite well known, but wasn’t when Bowie first took an interest in him. Made of found objects such as what looks like a telephone handset and a vinyl record, Alexandra is one of a series of works that “play on expectations and stereotypes of African art, and are now highly sought after.” Bowieologists can hardly fail to note that the piece also shares its name with the daughter Bowie and Iman would bring into the world a few years later. That could, of course, be just a coincidence, but as Bowie’s collection suggests, his life and his art — the art he acquired as well as the art he made — were one and the same.
Behold the Paintings of David Bowie: Neo-Expressionist Self Portraits, Illustrations of Iggy Pop, and Much More
96 Drawings of David Bowie by the “World’s Best Comic Artists”: Michel Gondry, Kate Beaton & More
Bowie’s Bookshelf: A New Essay Collection on The 100 Books That Changed David Bowie’s Life
How Aladdin Sane Became the Most Expensive Album Cover Ever — and David Bowie’s Defining Image
“David Bowie Is” — The First Major Exhibit Dedicated to Bowie Spans 50 Years & Features 300 Great Objects
Meet the Memphis Group, the Bob Dylan-Inspired Designers of David Bowie’s Favorite Furniture
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
Masha Titova's “The Music of Art” – The New Yorker
available to read in its entirety here, manage to do.t’s not often that the cover of The New Yorker, traditionally a storytelling image signed by the artist, reflects what goes on behind the scenes at the magazine—but that is what the black and copper shapes designed by Masha Titova for the cover of the June 5, 2023, Music Issue,
The first step was connecting with Titova, a Russian artist who relocated to Montenegro last year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I asked Titova to use her sense of design to orchestrate a portrayal of a variety of sounds. Titova says, “I don’t play an instrument, but I love music, especially its rhythms, which often inspire me. And when I design, I try to harmonize the various visual shapes as if they were part of a musical composition.”
Once we settled upon the image, we recorded the aural elements that make up the cover’s malleable melody. Some of our more musically adept staffers—including Nick Trautwein, a senior editor who moonlights as a saxophonist, and David Remnick, the editor, on guitar—gathered to interpret Titova’s shapes, selecting the ones they wished to play. Julia Rothchild, a managing editor, who contributed piano, viola, and voice, described the process as “an exercise in synesthesia. What sound would that square make, or those triangles? A thud, or a flutter?”
Impromptu chamber groups formed: a viola-cello duo, a vocal quintet. The musical respite in the middle of the day presented the opportunity to exercise a different kind of focus from that of closing pieces, or making fact-checking calls. The associate research director Hélène Werner, who has played the cello since she was eight years old, said, “Music set me on my way. It was the organizing principle of my childhood. . . . It demands, of those who play it and listen to it, intellectual commitment and emotional honesty. It is generous in return. There is no better teacher.” Rina Kushnir, the art director, also appreciates music for its emotive qualities, for its ability to communicate what is “not possible to express otherwise.” Liz Maynes-Aminzade, the puzzles-and-games editor, says that “drumming and writing (puzzles or otherwise) light up some of the same parts of my brain.” A unifying factor in everyone’s performance was how seriously each performer took their music. One after the other, when their turn came, they paused their casual banter, took a deep breath, played their bit, and only then rejoined the playful green-room atmosphere. It was an unplanned but perfect demonstration of all our colleagues’ marvellous dedication to all they do.
The making of a weekly magazine (or of a Web site, a radio show, a festival, any of our many undertakings) is always a concerted endeavor, but that collaboration happens behind the scenes. This multimedia project, programmed by David Kofahl, the head of the interactives department, with the help of the features editor Sam Wolson, gives a glimpse of the way the efforts of many talented individuals and departments combine to insure that The New Yorker appears on your doorstep (or in your in-box), week after week, as good as we can make it.
See below for more covers about music:
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OSS art students create 'exciting' new mural for school atrium – OrilliaMatters
The Orillia Secondary School (OSS) atrium will soon be graced with a new, student-made triptych mural that celebrates school spirit and Indigenous culture and history.
For the past two months, approximately 20 students from grades 9-12 have participated in the brand-new OSS Mural Club, put together by art teachers Steph Dunn and Lindsay Cooper-Wagner.
“We just decided to do this as an extracurricular, to give these artist students a home to have, you know, if they’re not involved in in sports or other things,” said Dunn. “They kind of found each other and we got to do some creative stuff together as a community.”
Together, the group created the Woodlands-style mural.
“It was inspired by one of my Grade 9 students, an Indigenous student, who did a drawing of our (school mascot) Nighthawk in the Woodlands style,” Dunn said.
Each piece of the mural reflects something different about the school, the community, and the area’s Indigenous history, Dunn explained.
“We kind of adopted that style, and also created a treaty map that’s done in the Woodlands style, a kind of (abstraction) of Simcoe County,” she said. “We also have a tree that symbolizes … we’re all in this in this building together … and there are seven little mini Nighthawks in the trees — they represent the seven grandfather teachings.”
The students who participated were happy for the opportunity to help create something meaningful and lasting for their school.
“For me, it was like really exciting to hear, as a Grade 9, I get to finally do something really big,” said OSS student Triti Shah. “I do a lot of art, digital (and) traditional, and it’s just like a really big thing for me … throughout my childhood. It’s really great actually getting to have something up there and out for everyone to see.”
Grade 10 student Paige Hodges, who is also an artist in her free time, said it was important to incorporate elements of Indigenous history in the mural.
“That was the the big idea was to really incorporate the indigenous aspects to it,” she said. “It is really nice to see that sort of inclusiveness in art pieces that will be displayed everywhere.”
The students are looking forward to the mural taking its rightful place in the atrium.
“I think they’re going to take a lot of pride in it once it’s up,” said Dunn.
GAAP Is Excited to Announce the Recent Close of an Undisclosed Investment Round Into BioScout – Australia – Yahoo Canada Finance
Sail Canada says coach Lisa Ross was fired for financial reasons, not because she was pregnant – The Globe and Mail
The Art Collection of David Bowie: An Introduction – Open Culture
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