Culture vulture: Picky Nicky swoops into Spain in pursuit of museum excellence

Picky Nicky selects his favourite museums.
Picky Nicky selects his favourite museums.
(Image credit: Danae Diaz)

My first stop on a recent road trip across northern Spain, travelling from the Basque Country to Galicia, was the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. My keen organizational skills meant that I had booked lunch at Nerua, the museum’s famed gastronomic restaurant, months in advance. That turned out to be a nine-course, two-hour affair by chef Josean Alija. However, I had failed to pre-book entrance tickets to the museum itself and, faced with major queues, I had us fast-tracked through, in exchange for becoming friends of the museum – a rather expensive way to gain one-off access. The Richard Serra show (eight site-specific works permanently installed in the museum’s largest gallery) was impressive, but so rammed with people that we left pretty promptly. In my view the museum is best seen from the outside anyway, especially as it comes into view as you drive over the La Salve Bridge.

Magic carpets

(Image credit: Danae Diaz)

Magic carpets: Wallpaper* Award-winner Nanimarquina produces seven carpets based on works by Chillida, including this ‘Gravitación 1993’ rug. €8,924. Illustrator: Danae Diaz

Álvaro, my Madrid-born husband, had been talking about the Museo Chillida Leku near San Sebastián for around 14 years, and the next day we finally managed a visit. It was opened in 2000 by the locally born sculptor Eduardo Chillida, just two years before his death. Around 40 of Chillida’s monumental steel and stone sculptures are installed in a 13-hectare park and inside a 16th-century farmhouse renovated by the artist. It sadly closed to the public in 2011, but you can, for a donation of €230, request a private tour – which is exactly what we did. Our host was Mikel Chillida, grandson of the artist, handsome, charming and very knowledgeable.

We had the place to ourselves for the entire morning. We also managed to prize open the shop, which has been shuttered for six years, and added a few items to our collection (which already included some lithographs published by Galerie Maeght and Galerie Lelong), most notably Chillida’s ‘Collage 1966’ carpet, now hanging above the bed in our home in Marylebone. After lunch we set off to see The Comb of the Wind, his series of three sculptures installed in 1976 on the rocks of San Sebastián’s La Concha Bay, which inspired us to drive 366km to Gijón the next day to see the 1990, 10m-high concrete work Elogio del Horizonte.

Flower power

(Image credit: Danae Diaz)

Flower power: I used to detest mixed bouquets until I came across florist Simone Gooch’s seasonal arrangements; each one is more exquisite than the next. Illustrator: Danae Diaz

Our blissful Chillida tour lasted just over two hours, probably the best two hours I spent in the past year – and to put that into perspective, in this job I am spoilt with rare opportunities to meet some of the extraordinary people who fill the pages of this magazine. The two hours after were spent sampling Juan Mari Arzak’s cuisine at Arzak in San Sebastián, which cost twice as much, and made the Chillida visit feel like a bargain.

Picky Nicky’s favourite museums

Museo Chillida Leku: Jauredi Bailara 66, Hernai, Gikuzpoa, Spain

Salvador Dalí House: Portlligat, Cadaques, Spain

Musée Yves Saint Laurent: Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech, Morroco

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: GI Stradverj 13, Humlebæk, Denmark

Parrish Art Museum: 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, New York, USA

21_21 Design Sight: Akaska, 9-7-6, Midtown Garden, Midtown, Tokyo, Japan

Leeum, Samsung Art Museum: 60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

As originally featured in the November 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*224)

Also known as Picky Nicky, Nick Vinson has contributed to Wallpaper* Magazine for the past 21 years. He runs Vinson&Co, a London-based bureau specialising in creative direction and interiors for the luxury goods industry. As both an expert and fan of Made in Italy, he divides his time between London and Florence and has decades of experience in the industry as a critic, curator and editor.