Good news people! The San Telmo museum has finally been given an opening date. As of the 2nd of April the newly refurbished museum will open its doors to an expectant and now rather impatient public – works started in 2007 and do seemed to have dragged on. First to open will be the temporary exhibitions, which take up 1,000m2 of the 11,000m2 of the museum. The remainder of the museum dedicated to permanent exhibitions will be up and running by Easter, it is promised.
San Telmo is Donosti´s most important exhibition and gallery space. Housed in a 16th century convent, it is home to paintings, sculptures and artworks by some of Euskadi´s most prominent artists as well as having exhibitions based around archeology and history. The current work being done is not just a renovation; it is an extension and rethinking of the concept of the museum. The museum has evolved, it is set to become “the largest museum in the Basque Country offering an approximation to Basque culture, tracking the collective memory in various approaches.” In addition it will become an educational and learning centre.
There´s high expectations for this new San Telmo. And rightly so. There will be 1,000m2 of space dedicated to temporary exhibitions. This gives San Sebastian a space in the city to house large scale itinerant exhibitions not previously available, and puts it on the map for other museums and galleries both nationally and internationally. The inaugural exhibition entitled “6 thousand million of others” is a large scale “mosaic of current humanity”. May not sound like a barrel of laughs, but advance photos look pretty impressive.
Although San Telmo is not a new attraction, the incorporation of this new space dedicated to temporary exhibitions is an important addition to the city in terms of its cultural and touristic offering. It gives a focal point to the city´s galleries. Possibly the most visible and striking space at the moment is housed in the Kursaal. But there are other interesting but a little hidden galleries such as Koldo Mitxelena, Kur, Galería Dieciséis and even the Kutxa space in the boulevard. But the opening of San Telmo will without doubt house the city’s most important collection of art and artefacts.
This is welcome news after the recent closure of Chillida-Leku, the open air museum home to several of the donosti-born artist’s largest works. A real loss for the city, and one hopes, only a temporary one. Additionally, talk of a 2nd Guggenheim museum in the region is all about it going to the Biscay region and not San Sebastián, adding fuel to the already fairly heated rivalry between the two communities. There is a feeling here that investment is always spent in Biscay region at the cost of Gipuzkoa.
In spite of this, the future looks bright for Donosti´s museums and galleries. The project to turn the Tabakalera building, the old cigarette factory, into “an International Contemporary Culture Centre, specialized in visual culture” is stunning. And what a venue it is. Huge interior spaces, incredible architecture and beautiful surrounding with a cultural offering which is at once totally different and yet complimentary to what is currently available. Works are scheduled to complete in 2015 but there will be on going exhibitions and activities. Add to this, the Aquarium, the 2nd most visited attraction in the Basque Country, the museum on the history of the city and the naval museum and suddenly the offering is pretty substantial.
Investment in the city infrastructure and improvements in cultural and commercial aspects of the city have changed the face of the city in the last two decades, adding improvements that make the city more comfortable and more attractive for tourism. It´s hard to imagine nowadays San Sebastian without the beach in Gros, La Zurriola, and yet this is a man made addition to the city from the mid 1990s. The Kursaal dates from 1999, the boulevard was completely restructured and extended in the late 1990s, the Bretxa shopping centre, the San Martin market… all additions to the city within the last few years. And all have considerably improved the quality of life for those who live here and added to the enjoyment of those who visit.
So what does the future hold? I´ve already mentioned the Tabakalera project, which we can continue to enjoy even while the full project takes shape. A big one will be the Monpás Walk, a walkway which will hug the side of the mountain by the sea stretching out from La Zurriola beach extending the current promenade. An exciting and polemic project, which I´ll write about in the future I´m sure. The external port and renovation of Pasaia. Wow, that could be big. Dare I mention the often talked about (Pasaia-born) Paco Rabanne museum, which seems to be less and less likely each passing year.
It´s great to live in a city which continues to reinvent itself. Which invests in its infrastructure, it´s cultural institutions and touristic offering to revitalize the city time and time again. Long may it continue and good luck to the reborn San Telmo.