Standing in front of the giant spider art work at the Guggenheim Bilbao museum I shiver. Gazing upward 30 feet (9 meters) to the Spanish sky, this mother Guggenheim spider looks as though she may have spun straight out of a science fiction movie. At the famous museum in Bilbao, the big spider Guggenheim statue makes an eye catching, if not terrifying, greeter.

Giant spider art

Guggenheim Bilbao spider – Giant spider art

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Created by Louise Bourgeois, the metal spider sculpture Bilbao goes by the name Maman. A tribute to her own mother, this giant Maman spider art is one in a series of metal spiders around the world. Here’s hoping the Guggenheim Maman black widow spider convention stays away from your local town.

You may ask, as I did, how this massive metal spider sculpture could reflect fondly on the artist’s mother. Call it the Maman Guggenheim Bilbao or the Maman Bilbao but by any name this Guggenheim spider artist is reflecting a most interesting mother child relationship.

Bilbao spider outside Guggenheim Museum

Spider at Guggenheim Bilbao – Maman spider Spain

Giant spider art for Mommy dearest?

The intent of the Louise Bourgeois sculpture of the Bilbao museum spider is to honor the weaving of the artist’s Mom.  Oh the Bilbao giant spider artwork plot thickens. In the eyes of Bourgeois, the Maman spider Guggenheim Bilbao reflects maternity. The title originates in the French word for Mother (similar to the English reference of Mommy.)

Bourgeois’ mother worked in her father’s textile business repairing tapestries. When her mother died at age 21 to an illness of unknown origin Louise attempted to take her life by throwing herself into the Bievre River. Her father who witnessed the event rescued her.

“The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.” ~ Louise Bourgeois

Bourgeois’ career spans more than seven decades. The Maman artist repetorie includes painting, drawing, printmaking and performance but it is her sculptures and especially her giant spider sculpture artwork for which she is most known. Louise Bourgeois utilized painful childhood memories as an underlying theme in her complex art creations.

The giant spider sculpture reflects both protector and predator. With silk used to both build cocoons as well as to bind prey, the Louise Bourgeois spider Bilbao embodies strength and fragility.

In my humble opinion it also embodies some creepiness.

bilbao guggenheim spider

Bilbao Guggenheim  Museum Spain spider

If one is brave enough to walk under the giant spider art, a metal sac holds the mother of all spider’s eggs.  The sac hangs perilously over art goers. Meanwhile the ominous metal legs create a cage like atmosphere for visitors.

Bourgeois’s Spanish spider depicts a the fragile Bilbao spider statue balancing seemingly on precariously thin legs. Yet once within the cage the spider maman legs create one feels the powerful protection of the sac of eggs hanging high overhead.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao spider sculpture leaves visitors with a sense of the vulnerability and yet the spider Maman invokes fear by its sheer enormity.

Where can I find the giant spider art?

Designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum can be found in Bilbao Spain in the Basque country. Filled with modern and contemporary art, the building itself is considered in architecture circles as one of the most important works since 1980. The Guggenheim black widow art spider makes a stunning or potentially terrifying outdoor greeter.

The giant metal spider lives on the river side of the Guggenheim Museum. The Bilbao spider statue appears to keep a mother spider watch over everyone in the center of Bilbao.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is located in the heart of the city at Avenida Abandoibarra, 2 – 48009 Bilbao. We chose to hire a guide for our day in Bilbao.

giant spider art

Can you spot the giant spider in Bilbao in front of the Guggenheim?

If you are staying in Bilbao and wanting to see the Guggenheim Bilbao spider sculpture, our recommendation is to walk or take public transit as the museum does not have a parking facility. Some metered street parking is available or you can park underground at Plaza Pio Baroja or Plaza Euskadi car parks.

If traveling to the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum by tram you will exit at the Guggenheim stop. By Metro watch for the Moyua stop to visit the unforgettable Maman sculpture Bilbao.

Are there other locations to find a giant spider statue?

The original big Maman was created in 1999 as part of the Unilever Series for London’s Tate Modern. This original black spider art forms from steel. An Ottawa spider can be found lurking at the National Gallery of Canada. The big spider art in Ottawa was acquired in 2005 for 3.2 million dollars with the Maman sculpture taking up one third of the gallery’s budget.

Permanent installations of giant black spider art can also be found at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan and Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in South Korea. Bourgeois’ large spider sculpture awaits visitors at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansa, USA. Yet another permanent metal spider sculpture resides in Doha, Qatar at the Qatar National Convention Center.

Now time for your opinion. Is this giant spider art or is the Guggenheim museum spider a frightening folly?

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