María José Orihuela is a practicing architect based between Bilbao and London. At University, she joined the Design Department to teach graphic expression and form analysis. Since her collaboration with the UNAV Art Museum project (MUN), she became interested in how museums could be a place to establish a dialogue about the city and its people, through local art. Her research interests include an inquiry into curation, and the diverse forms that art spaces can take –gallery, archive, workshop, or public square. She has recently been awarded with a First prize by the TWRB Foundation at EMMA Museum of Modern Art (Finland) in the competition ‘Sharing’, in partnership with Chiara Montgomerie. Maria holds a Master of Arts in History & Critical Thinking from the AA School in London.
Bilbao’s image was projected onto the world as a success story under the title “The Guggenheim Effect”. Beyond that narrative lies a scenario of urban transformation in which local art had been steadily gaining international recognition, while keeping its eclectic and unique character. Today, Bilbao offers a mix of established art institutions and young initiatives, galleries and workshop spaces, most of them at walking distance. Art spaces can appear at unusual locations, from converted warehouses to traditional lonjas, it can even take place in a forest, sometimes even at the Guggenheim.
Bilbao has a size that allows visitors to keep sane when trying to get a good grasp of its art scene in a day. With a population of 345,141, it is the tenth largest city in Spain. Tours are tailored to each group’s particular interests, and to current events and exhibitions. Generally, they cover three or more exhibition spaces or galleries, alongside a curated route through one of the main museums. The aim is to look for specific pieces and spaces in order to get a fair impression of what is going on in the contemporary scene, while depicting the local background of Basque art.
A variant of the tour is a wine & art pairing session, in which between two exhibitions and at the end of the tour, the group stops for a glass of wine + pintxo (Basque for tapa). Wines are carefully selected and briefly presented by the author of the wine blog Boca de Vino.