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Bilbao, Spain

Bilbao seems to have gone global overnight. A peripheral city in Western Europe with an old industrial tradition but largely unknown to most people outside Spain, Bilbao came to the attention of commentators worldwide thanks to the opening of a branch of the Guggenheim Museum in 1997—a project widely acclaimed as a resounding success, turning the city into a destination for global pilgrimage. Millions have visited the city to contemplate the art and admire the titanium building that wraps the museum, a work hailed as architect Frank O. Gehry's masterpiece. According to outsiders, the museum triggered the city's revi-talization. After 20 years of decline, Bilbao's good economic performance since 1994 was attributed uncritically to the Guggenheim “miracle.” New claims were made about the role of ...

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