The Guggenheim Museum
An internationally renowned art museum and one of the most important architectural icons of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum is also an important cultural centre, an educational institution, and the heart of an international network of museums.
Visitors can enjoy special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, lectures by artists and critics, performances and film screenings, classes for youth and adults, and daily guided tours of the galleries led by experienced docents.
Founded on a collection of early modern masterpieces, the Guggenheim Museum is now an ever-growing institution dedicated to art, whether that of the 20th century or beyond.
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128
Tel: +1 212 423 3500
openAbout the Wright Building
In June 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright received a letter from Hilla von Rebay, Solomon R. Guggenheim´s art advisor, asking the architect to design a new building for Guggenheim´s four-year-old Museum of Non-Objective Paintings. The project developed into a complex dispute played out between the architect and his clients, representatives of the city, the art world, and public opinion. Both Guggenheim and Wright were to die before the building was completed in 1959. The successful result, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is a testament not only to Wright´s architectural genius, but also to the adventurous spirit that characterised its founders.
Wright made no secret of his disappointment with Guggenheim´s choice of New York for his museum: ´´I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build such a great museum,´´ Wright wrote to Arthur Holden in 1949, ´´but we must try New York. ´´ For Wright, the city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural ambition.
Nevertheless, he followed his client´s wishes, given sites on 36th Street, 54th Street and Park Avenue (all in Manhattan), as well as in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, before moving to the present site on Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets. Its proximity to Central Park was key; as close to nature as the museum is to New York, the park offered an escape from the noise and congestion of the city.
Nature not only provided the museum with a respite from New York´s distractions, but also offers inspiration. The Guggenheim Museum is an embodiment of Wright´s attempts to translate the inherent plasticity of organic forms into architecture. His inverted ziggurat (a stepped or sinuous pyramidal temple of Babylonian origin) is not a conventional approach to a design museum, which took visitors through a series of internally connected rooms, forcing them to retrace their steps as they exited the structure. Wright brought people to the top of the building through an elevator, and led them down the gentle slope of a continuous ramp at a leisurely pace. The galleries were divided into membranes like citrus fruits, with self-contained yet merging sections. The open rotunda offered viewers the unique opportunity to see multiple works on multiple levels simultaneously. The spiral design is reminiscent of a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely into one another.
openAbout the collection
The transformation from private collection to public museum is an extraordinary transition. For the Guggenheim, this occurred in 1937, when Solomon R. Guggenheim established a foundation empowered to operate a museum that would exhibit publicly and ensure the preservation of the holdings of his non-objective art. Today, the Guggenheim Museum is an institution that provides access to shared collections at multiple locations, with shared constituencies and programming. Yet it is the permanent collection that is the core of the institution, no matter how far-reaching the foundation´s activities may be.
The history of the Guggenheim Museum is essentially the history of several very different private collections. Central among these are the Solomon R. Guggenheim collection of non-objective painting, based on a belief in the spiritual dimensions of pure abstraction; the collection of his niece Peggy Guggenheim, consisting of abstract and surrealist painting and sculpture; the collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works and masterpieces of the early modern period, founded by Justin K. Thannhauser, and the vast holdings of European and American Minimalist, Post-Minimalist and Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo´s vast holdings of European and American Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, Environmental and Conceptual Art.
These collections have been enhanced over the past two decades by major gifts from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and the Bohen Foundation, as well as by the ongoing series of commissions of contemporary art made possible by the Guggenheim´s unique partnership with Deutsche Bank for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, and by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao´s varied but complimentary acquisition programme. Together with numerous other important acquisitions and gifts secured by the Guggenheim directors and curators over the years, these acquisitions have contributed to the formation of a multi-layered, international collection of art from the late 19th century to the present.
Unlike most institutions dedicated to the visual arts, the Guggenheim does not divide itself into departments devoted to specific genres or periods. Rather, the collection is conceived as an integrated whole that is allowed to continually expand in response to emerging talent as well as a mandate to fill historical-critical gaps.