Agravitas - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

[ 2022-11-17 ]

Institutional laying of the first stone

Participants in the event, which was held today outside the museum near the glass façade of the Alameda Conde Arteche, included Lorea Bilbao, provincial councillor for Euskera, Culture and Sport; Bingen Zupiria, councillor for Culture and Linguistic Policy of the Basque government; Juan Mari Aburto, mayor of the Bilbao Town Hall; Xabier Sagredo, President of BBK Banking Foundation; Lord Norman Foster and Luis María Uriarte, architects of the project; Miguel Zugaza, the museum director; and Carmen López Niclós and Rut Salaverri on behalf of the Friends of the Museum.

After burying the time capsule with newspapers, along with coins that are legal tender and a copy of the variation order which formalised the last step in executing the project, speeches were delivered in the Chillida Hall. This event ended with Foster and Uriarte signing one of the shovels—made by Bellota, the century-old tool brand from Guipúzcoa—which symbolises the beginning of construction and will be conserved in the museum’s industrial design collection.

The ceremony was attended by the boards of the museum and the BBK Banking Foundation and by representatives from civil society and the world of culture, as well as the studios and companies involved in the project and the team from the museum.

Next, the director of the museum, Miguel Zugaza, welcomed the participants before introducing the speech by Xabier Sagredo, who pointed out how with this new milestone both institutions were renewing five decades of joint actions which will receive a new impetus in the BBK Museoa space, whose more than 2,000 square metres will offer an intensive exhibition and public activities programme. He also recalled that the museum will remain open for most of the 22 months when the project will be underway, showing the collection following the dynamic BBKateak format of encounters between artists from different periods in art history.

Next, Juan Mari Aburto highlighted that the roadmap of this decisive architectural transformation was set forth in the 2019–2022 strategic plan approved by the museum board in 2018, and that the first step in achieving it was announcing the international tender for projects for the Enlargement and Reform of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum in early 2019. The mayor highlighted the extraordinary opportunity to welcome the talent of Norman Foster to Bilbao once again; he and Luis María Uriarte are bringing an exciting new protagonism to one of the oldest and most prominent art museums in Spain. He also showcased the close collaboration between the team that drew up the project and the different departments within the Town Hall, which has led to major improvements like the adaptation of the existing buildings to current civil protection standards.

An audiovisual created for the occasion graphically summarised the intense project design process, from the initial drawings and ideas by Foster and Uriarte to the final definition of the construction project, which was awarded last 9 September to the joint venture Ampliación Bellas Artes comprised of Empresa Constructora Urbelan, S.A. + Altuna y Uria, S.A. + Campezo Obras y Servicios, S.A. and Teusa Técnicas de Restauración, S.A., with a budget of €33,944,603.87.

With the event today, the museum concluded the preparations for the enlargement. As Bingen Zupiria noted, this ‘ushers in a new era for our institution, even though its importance extends even further given that it underscores the evolution of one of the longstanding institutions in our art system, and thus confirms not only its relevancy but also the institutions’ support for the transformative capacity of culture and its invaluable contribution to the country’.

Next Maite Paliza Monduate, a professor of Art History and member of the museum’s Artistic Advisory Committee, spoke to highlight the fact that ‘Foster’s proven ability to create iconic spaces in his enlargement and intervention projects in previous buildings, including some museums, will also become clear in this project in Bilbao. I think that the new visitor reception hall, which is focused around the Monument to Arriaga by Durrio, is fated to become one of the landmarks of Bilbao.’

To conclude, Norman Foster stressed: ‘We are delighted to celebrate the birth of a project which will link the cultural heritage of the past to the museum of the future. From the new gathering space in the Arriaga atrium the visitor will proceed to the spacious new galleries and then discover the outdoor terrace that celebrates the museum’s unique location. The result of our close collaboration with Luis María Uriarte and the museum team is now about to become a reality. We would like to pay tribute to the General Deputy of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, the Regional Minister of Culture and Linguistic Policy of the Basque Government, the Mayor of the City Council of Bilbao and the President of BBK Banking Foundation – all for their commitment of the positive role of art in the life of the city’.

Summary of the main milestones in the enlargement project

The roadmap of this decisive architectural transformation was set forth in the 2019–2022 strategic plan approved by the museum board on 11 December 2018. The first step in achieving it was announcing the international tender for projects for the Enlargement and Reform of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum on 11 February 2019. The tender was financed by BBK, the museum’s Honorary Patron and a faithful ally in the key junctures in its recent history.

Of the 57 teams admitted in the first phase, the jury determined the six finalists on 8 April 2019, and finally, on 23 July it announced its decision in favour of the project presented by Foster+Partners + LM Uriarte Arkitektura whose slogan was Agravitas. The announcement of the decision, which was unanimous, summarised the strengths of the project as follows: ‘Technological in its image, humanistic in its approach and ecological in its sustainability, it is a proposal that merges architectural quality, urban sensibility and social responsibility to create a light, luminous landmark in the historical heart of Bilbao’.

Both the winning project and the finalists were exhibited to the public in the museum’s BBK gallery between 29 July and 6 October. In December of that same year, Foster held a press conference where he presented a glimpse of the project and its driving idea: to reviving the protagonism of the 1945 building by restoring its original entrance, and to design a space with unique dimensions that is respectfully layered upon the 1945 and 1970 buildings. The project is also turning Plaza del Monumento a Arriaga, the square where Durrio’s Monument to Arriaga is located, into the museum’s new main artery.

On 31 March 2022, the museum published the tender for the execution of the work in the Public Procurement Platform of the Basque Country, which had to be reworded due to the current juncture. On 9 September of this year, it was awarded to the joint venture Ampliación Bellas Artes comprised of Empresa Constructora Urbelan, S.A. + Altuna y Uria, S.A. + Campezo Obras y Servicios, S.A. and Teusa Técnicas de Restauración, S.A.

The confirmation of the variation order was drafted on 8 November, a necessary step in the execution of the project.



[ 2022-09-26 ]

The open museum

In line with construction plans, all public-facing museum activity will move to the old building, which will remain open to the public throughout most of the course of the extension, offering exhibitions and their accompanying activities. The collection will be presented through the dynamic BBKateak format consisting of interesting encounters between two artists in each gallery. New installations will be regularly displayed with the dual aim of exploring the riches of the museum collection and sparking stimulations observations among visitors. There will also be other events, such as the Guest Work programme, restorations and other presentations, together with our multi-channel programme (in-person and online) of educational and outreach activities.

Access to the museum will be via the door of the old building on Museo Plaza and admission will be free.



[ 2022-06-13 ]

Agreement of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum on Delay of actions from the proceeding to contract the enlargement and refurbishment works of the museum, to adapt the budget and timeframe of the tender

The Fine Arts Museum, meeting today, adopted the agreement for the delay of actions in the proceedings to contract the museum’s enlargement and refurbishment works due to the ‘extraordinary current situation involving a substantial increase in the costs of certain raw materials needed to execute the project’, which may be behind the lack of bids.

This administrative proceeding allowing for the partial modification of the conditions as well as an update of the budget of the tender so that it matches current market prices, as required by articles 100 and 101 of law 9/2017, dated 8 November 2017, on Public Sector Contracts. Thus, the project has been revised to identify items that allow for a more efficient result for this purpose, while the museum has also approved the contracting proceeding with a new base tender budget of 34,184,000 euros, which is a 15.5% increase over the previous budget (29,584,000 euros).

Likewise, the deadline to submit bids has been extended until the end of July, which means an adjustment of the calendar of the enlargement, which is scheduled to begin in late October 2022.

This resolution and its corresponding modifications will be registered starting next Monday, 20 June, in the Basque Country Public Contracting platform, which contains the announcement of the tender—published on 31 March 2022—to contract the execution of the enlargement and refurbishment of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.


[ 2022-03-30 ]

The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum publishes the tender for the extension work of the Agravitas project by Norman Foster and Luis María Uriarte.

  • The base cost estimate for the project tender is 29.5 million euros and the work is expected to last for 22 months.
  • The overall project estimate includes a 9.5% increase for the adaptation of existing buildings to new fire protection and evacuation standards, as well as a foreseeable increase in supply prices due to the current climate.
  • The project guarantees the partial opening of the museum while the works are underway.

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, 30 March 2022.– The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum has published today on the Basque Country Public Procurement Platform a tender for the execution of the work to extend its facilities in accordance with the Agravitas project, signed by the architects Norman Foster and Luis María Uriarte, and submitted by the Foster + Partners Ltd. + LM Uriarte Arkitektura S.L.P. joint venture. Agravitas won the bid for the Extension and Renovation Project called by the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum on 11 February 2019 and whose decision was announced publicly on July 23 of that year.

Following the undertaking of the works to accommodate the old building—which began in September 2021 and whose completion is scheduled for the month of April—the main phase of the work has been put out to tender today, Wednesday, 30 March 2022. The deadline for submitting bids—50 calendar days from publication in the contractor’s profile—will end on 19 May 2022.

The project meets the requirements of the Bilbao City Council Civil Protection Services for the adaptation of the original architecture to current fire protection and evacuation regulations. Among other measures, compliance with these requirements will mean fireproofing most of the structure of the buildings, which date from 1945 and 1970.

For its part, the museum Executive Committee has taken on board the guidelines submitted by Krean engineering, the project consultant, which recommend including an additional percentage in the estimate due to the price rise in the current climate in the building industry. All of the above has led to a 9.5% increase in the overall project estimate over the initial proposal, resulting in a final tender base cost estimate for the extension and renovation of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum of 29.5 million euros.

As reported, the project is financed by a loan secured with Kutxabank on 17 December 2021, guaranteed by the Bilbao City Council, the Bizkaia Provincial Council and the Basque Government. The recently approved budget increase of 3.6 million euros, resulting from Civil Protection and contingency fund adjustments, will be financed through a special grant paid for in equal parts by these three institutions.

The work is expected to take 22 months from its commencement with the site survey. According to the proposed schedule, from the month of July the modern building will be closed to the public and the exhibition activity will be transferred to the old building, following the facility refurbishment tasks implemented in order to keep the museum partially open while the longer works are underway.

Goals of the extension project

The main goals of the project include, on the one hand, providing the museum with more space in which to stage its activities, both public and in-house, and, on the other, improving accessibility and respecting and enhancing the value of existing architecture and the natural environment in which it stands. The significant physical extension of the museum amounts to 6,743 m2 of new construction (more than 60%) and the remodelling of another already existing 8,000 m2. At the same time, the sustainability of the facilities is improved for increased energy efficiency and the museum is given greater prominence on the city’s architectural skyline.

The extension of the exhibition space for the collection and temporary exhibits is one of the project’s great achievements. The collection will have an additional 1,635 m2 (45% more than the current space). For their part, the temporary exhibits will have the new BBK-Museoa space, located on the top floor of the extension. This space and the new terrace together cover 2,200 m2, doubling the current exhibition area.

Another important goal impacts the space earmarked for public activities, which is increased by 81%, with the covered square of the monument to Arriaga—boasting more than 1,000 m2—gaining the most for visitor reception and services. Freely accessible via any of the entrances to the museum, this great public point of convergence will allow the door of the old building to be opened, thus restoring its original functionality to its neoclassical façade. The Arriaga space will also provide direct access to the new Arteder Documentation and Research Centre, which will benefit from more than 500 m2 in the basement of the old building.

The rest of the area gained is divided into spaces for offices, transit, services and facilities.

[ 2021-09-09 ]

The Contracting period for Phase I construction is open: partial preparation for the expansion and refurbishment of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which will begin in the old building in November


[ 21/06/24 ]

  • BBK and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum renew their alliance through the signing of a new collaboration agreement that establishes the strategic lines of action for the next fifteen years under the BBK Museoa identity.
  • The joint action between BBK and the museum will take place in the new BBK Museoa space designed by Norman Foster and Luis María Uriarte within the “Agravitas” project for the renovation and extension of the museum, which will begin this year.
  • The agreement lays the foundations to guarantee the financial self-sufficiency of the BBK Museoa programme, which will include the organisation of two major annual exhibitions.


The signing of this agreement renews the cultural positioning and establishes a new milestone in the five decades of collaboration between BBK and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

An alliance that began at the end of the seventies of the last century and was extended in 1994 with the creation of the BBK Room. It received its decisive backing in 2001 when BBK joined the museum as Patron of Honor and member of its Executive Committee together with the three founding institutions (Bilbao City Council, Bizkaia Provincial Council and the Basque Government). It was in that year—in which, in addition, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Foundation was incorporated—when the BBK Museum Programme was established, which over the course of this time has provided cover for the joint action framework.

Throughout these years the development of general interest activities has materialised in the museum’s largest artistic programme supported by a private entity and which backs three main projects—temporary exhibitions, educational activities and outreach—which have played a major role in cultural actions in the territory and their staging in a broader artistic context.

The main goal of the majority of the museum’s exhibition programme, which is run precisely thanks to the collaboration with BBK, is to acquaint the public with important artists, periods or episodes in the history of art. The archive includes catalogues as memorable as El bodegón español. De Zurbarán a Picasso [Spanish still life. From Zurbarán to Picasso] (1999) and Antonio López (2011). It also aims to contribute to research, as in the case of Obras maestras de la Colección Valdés [Masterpieces of the Valdés Collection] (2020), and to showcase the museum’s own collection, as in the exhibitions 110 Years 110 Works (2018) and ABC. The alphabet of the Bilbao Museum. In this respect, BBK has also contributed to the enrichment of the collection through various formulas, one of the most recent examples of which has been the sponsorship of the purchase, in 2017 by the Friends of the Museum, of the splendid View of Bermeo (1783) by the painter Luis Paret.

Attention to Basque cultural identity and its creative community is one of the core areas of interest in the synergies between BBK and the museum, and ranges from classical artists—from Zamacois to Zuloaga—to the twentieth century, with Basterretxea, Mendiburu and Ameztoy, to mention just three prominent names. The same purpose has guided, since 1982, the BBK-Museum Research Grants.

Educational and mediation work accompanies the temporary exhibitions, offering a wide range of audiences, with diverse interests and needs, workshops, visits, meetings, audio guides, talks and conferences both on site and online. BBK’s exhibitions also generate catalogues and other art publications that occupy most of the museum’s editorial work.

But, moreover, this on-site activity at the museum extends beyond its rooms in performances across the city and the region. Noteworthy examples are the travelling exhibition BBK Artearen Ibilbidea / La Ruta del Arte [Art Route] which, since 2018, has toured different towns in Bizkaia, and the current exhibition Paret in Bilbao.

BBK’s contribution to the museum’s prestige and its ongoing mentoring in different stages of its history have been essential to be able to face future challenges with confidence.

A strategic future: BBK Museoa


BBK Museoa is the new collaboration project between BBK and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum Foundation that is a follow-up, after 25 years of joint action, to the activity carried out mainly in the museum’s BBK Room.

In 2019, BBK sponsored an international architectural tender for the extension and renovation of the museum. The winning bid was the ‘Agravitas’ project, designed by Norman Foster and Luis María Uriarte and which is scheduled to begin this autumn. One of the most important actions in the project proposes a new space that will bring together in a single museum area, identified with the new BBK Museoa brand, all the exhibition events and educational and outreach activities associated with the joint programme.

Boasting an exhibition area of more than 2,000 square meters, which doubles the current BBK Room, BBK Museoa occupies the main ensemble of the public space of the extension, which is planned on the existing architecture to offer the museum new prominence in the city.

In addition to being a new space, BBK Museoa will be an ambitious art programme targeted at the community closest to the museum and, at the same time, open to an international audience.

It aims to stage two major annual exhibitions that foster, through artistic creation and together with an ambitious programme of educational and outreach activities, reflection on the great challenges facing our society today


[ 20/12/21 ]

Today, in a meeting attended both in-person and virtually by Bingen Zupiria, spokesperson and minister of Culture and Linguistic Policy of the Basque Government, Unai Rementeria, chairman of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, and Juan Mari Aburto, mayor of Bilbao, the Museum Board expressed their support for the expansion plan designed by Norman Foster and Luis Mª Uriarte.

In the wake of Bilbao City Council’s approval of the Special Plan and presentation of the core project, the final drafting and bidding process of the construction project—commencing in September 2021 in the modern building—is to be set in motion. The extension will allow all the requirements presented in the Strategic Plan to be implemented on the same premises, enabling the museum to expand considerably by over 5,000 m2. The emblematic nature of the project, conservation of both existing architectural features and the natural setting, and greater energy efficiency are the guiding principles behind the project’s design. Furthermore, the space around Francisco Durrio’s Arriaga monument will become a new public sculpture gallery accessed via the entrances on Euskadi square and Chillida square.

At the same meeting it was also decided that the funding model for the construction work set out in the museum’s Strategic Plan would remain unchanged. The model consists of the formalisation of a long-term loan taken out by the Foundation, estimated at 25 million euros, which will be repaid by the three founding institutions: Bilbao City Council, the Provincial Council of Bizkaia and the Basque Government.

The project’s editing team has confirmed the good news that the museum will be able to remain partially open during nearly the entirety of the construction project, which is estimated to last 21 months. The expansion project will allow a significant part of the old museum building—the least affected by the construction work—to remain open. It will be accessible via its original entrance, where a provisional ramp will be set up in order to improve access. During this time, the museum’s management has set forth a special rotation programme for the collection so that the largest possible number of works remain on view and so as to ensure that the institution’s education and dissemination programmes continue. Moreover, according to the construction plans, both the departments and internal services of the museum and the bulk of the non-exhibited collection will be able to remain at the museum throughout the construction process.


Cátedra UNESCO Report: PDF

“Las arquitecturas del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao” – Maite Paliza Monduate: PDF



Norman Foster presents the project for the remodel of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

[ 19/12/16 ]

This morning, in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Norman Foster presented a preview of the draft project for its expansion. In his comments, Foster used one of the art gallery’s most iconic works—The Bridge at Burceña by Aurelio Arteta—as a metaphor for an understanding of the past being one of the fundamental bridges for building the future.

The event was attended by Unai Rementeria, the General Deputy for Bizkaia and Chairman of the Museum Board; Bingen Zupiria, the Regional Secretary for Culture and Linguistic Policy of the Basque Government; Juan Mari Aburto, Mayor of the City Council of Bilbao; as well as other representatives from the Board, from the jury of the bid for the expansion architecture and from the museum Corporate Programme, to name but a few.

The road map of this important architectural initiative was determined on 11 December 2018 in the Strategic Plan 2019–2022, approved by the Board with the aim of driving the organisational modernisation and the physical expansion of the institution. Within this new strategic vision, the action with the greatest impact is the expansion of some 8,000 m2 of the museum’s operating space, with a budget of €18,658,200 and a completion time of 45 months.

The first step towards achieving this goal was the call for bids for the architecture on 11 February, held thanks to funding by BBK, the honorary patron of the museum. On April 8, the jury selected six finalists out of the 57 teams admitted in the first stage. Finally, on July 23, the bid decision was announced in favour of the project titled ‘Agravitas’, presented by Foster+Partners + LM Uriarte Arkitektura, and both the winning project and the finalists were on display for the public between July 29 and October 6.

The core idea is to recover the prominence of the 1945 building by restoring its original entrance. A uniquely-sized space is projected on the existing installations that stands respectfully on the 1945 and 1970 buildings, providing the museum with new galleries on one single open-plan, multi-purpose floor. The initiative also transforms the Square containing the monument to Arriaga into the new heart of the museum’s hub.

[In its report, the jury summed up the strengths of the project as follows: ‘Technological in its image, humanistic in its approach and ecological in its sustainability, the proposal combines architectural quality, urban sensitivity and social responsibility to build a dazzling, subtle milestone in the historic heart of Bilbao’.

As for Unai Rementeria, he highlighted the most significant improvements in the functionality and visibility of the museum on condensing into one single volume the requirement plan, as well as the consideration it shows to visitors and the enormous environmental awareness of a project at the service of citizens.

Sponsor: BBK


Project to enlarge and remodel the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The project with the pseudonym “Agravitas” submitted by UTE Foster + Partners Ltd. + LM Uriarte Arkitektura S.L.P., was chosen to be the winning proposal to enlarge and remodel the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

The jury has unanimously deemed that the winning project is the one that best meets the priority objectives, namely to provide the museum with more room to extend the display of its collections and to promote its exhibition, education and dissemination programmes.

The winning project will also resolve the museum’s orientation to the city by once again making the façade of the old building, which today faces Plaza Euskadi, permeable. Furthermore, the new architecture will bring unique value to the institution’s identity.

The maximum budget estimated by the museum for the execution of the future museum enlargement and remodelling contract is €18,658,200.00 (VAT included).


Norman Foster, Luis María Uriarte

The guiding idea behind this project is to gain back the protagonism of the 1945 building by restoring its original entrance. Over the existing installations, a uniquely-sized space is designed to respectfully rest over the 1945 and 1970 buildings, equipping the museum with 2,000 m2 of new galleries on a single open, flexible floor, an optimal gallery for any art curator.

The new remodelling turns Plaza Arriaga into the new heart of the museum’s backbone, with light streaming in from the rooflight running across the new gallery, and all the levels on the ground floor will be unified to give the museum an accessible plane where it is easy to orient oneself.

The proposed remodelling is characterised by a new striated piece to enhance its slenderness, with a minimum number of supports placed far from the footprint of the existing buildings.

UTE Foster + Partners Ltd. + LM Uriarte Arkitektura S.L.P.

Norman Foster is the founder and executive chairman of Foster + Partners, a global studio for architecture, urbanism and design, rooted in sustainability. His projects include the Reichstag in Berlin, the Great Court of the British Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, airports in Hong Kong and Beijing and headquarters buildings for Hearst (New York), Apple (Cupertino), Bloomberg (London), Comcast (Philadelphia) and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (Hong Kong). Current research projects, in association with The European Space Agency and NASA, are exploring solutions for the creation of habitations on the Moon and Mars.

He is president of the Norman Foster Foundation, based in Madrid with a global reach, promoting interdisciplinary thinking and research to help new generations of architects, designers and urbanists anticipate the future. He became the 21st Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate in 1999.

In 1997, he was appointed to the Order of Merit and in 1999 was granted a Life Peerage in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, taking the title of Lord Foster of Thames Bank. His passions include cross-country skiing, cycling and aviation.

Luis María Uriarte. Architect/project leader. An acclaimed Basque architect with 30 years of experience. His work has been exhibited in Chicago, Shanghai and Sao Paulo and published in numerous architecture magazines (El Croquis, L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, etc.). He combines his professional practice with teaching at Universidad de Navarra and Academie van Bouwkunst in Amsterdam. Key projects include the following:

  • Reforma y ampliación del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2002
  • Reforma interior de lucernarios, solados y acabados del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018
  • Centro de Artes Escénicas Getxo Antzokia–Musika Eskola, 2018–Getxo (Bizkaia)
  • Reforma y ampliación del Centro Público Docente Gandasegui, 2018–Getxo (Bizkaia)
  • Centro de Producción Cultural Antenna, 2014–Galdakao (Bizkaia)
  • Reforma del Pórtico de San Pedro, 1995–Llodio (Bizkaia)


The proposals by the six teams which are on display in the exhibition are: