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Celebrating the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum - 60 Years of Art and Architecture - GUILD MAGAZINE
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Celebrating the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – 60 Years of Art and Architecture

Celebrating the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – 60 Years of Art and Architecture August 4, 2019
1071 Fifth Avenue; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York; Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
1071 Fifth Avenue; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York; Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
1071 Fifth Avenue; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York; Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
“Everybody was telling me that this modern stuff was the bunk. So as I’ve always been interested in things that people told me were the bunk. I decided that therefore there must be beauty in modern art. I got to feel those pictures so deeply that I wanted them to live with me.” - Solomon R. Guggenheim

New York City, USA – Solomon R. Guggenheim was an American businessman born into an affluent mining family in 1861. Beyond his business interests, Guggenheim was a passionate art collector. This passion drove him to accumulate one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art of his time. Through the 1930’s, successful exhibitions of his collection sparked interest in these forms of art. In 1937, together with abstract painter and collector Hilla Rebay, Guggenheim founded the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, with the mission to further foster appreciation for modern art. As he continued on his mission to change the American perspective on abstract forms of art, Guggenheim and Rebay opened the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939. This museum became the foundation of what in 1959, ten years after his death, would become the emblematic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

For the expansion of the museum, Guggenheim and Rebay wanted an architectural design that would showcase the purpose of the museum, while highlighting its difference from other museums of the area, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned for the work and is responsible for the now-iconic spiral design of the museum, and for creating a location often referred to as a “temple of the spirit,” where avant-garde art and architecture converge.

Public Opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 10/25/1959
Public Opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 10/25/1959. Photo: Robert E. Mates © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.


The spiral design of the building draws inspiration from a nautilus shell. When discussing the design and shape of the building, Wright was quoted as stating: “these geometric forms suggest certain human ideas, moods, sentiments – as for instance: the circle, infinity; the triangle, structural unity; the spiral, organic progress; the square, integrity.” [1] 

Before opening its doors, the design of the museum was often criticized, with many architects and artists expressing concern and discontent that the building’s design would cloud the museum’s artworks. Wright replied to his critics that contrary to their concerns, the design made “the building and the painting an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never existed in the World of Art before.” [2]  When officially opening its doors on October 21, 1959, six months after Wright’s death, the building and its design earned wide praise.

In 1990, the museum and its interior were individually designated as New York City Landmarks. The museum has also gained status as a National Historic Landmark (2008), a spot on the National Register of Historic Places (2005), and most recently, in 2019, the Guggenheim was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Today, it continues to serve as a source of inspiration for many artists and architects.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.

The museum, one of New York City’s most visited attractions, holds approximately 600 artworks given initially by Solomon Guggenheim. As years passed, the museum’s collection of works continued to grow. In 1948 the Guggenheim Foundation purchased the whole estate of New York art dealer Karl Nierendorf, expanding its collection of Expressionist and, Surrealist works. In 1963, the museum received a portion of Justin K. Thannhauser’s collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and modern French masterpieces. Between 1990 and 1992, the museum acquired over 350 works of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual art from the famous collection of Giuseppe Panza di Biumo. Since 1997, through the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s acquisition program, the museum has continued to focus on art from the mid-20th century to the present.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum continues its integral work researching the history of works of modern and contemporary art, especially for the period between 1933–45. This helps to ensure not only the authenticity of the works but also to identify objects with uncertain Nazi-era provenance and if those objects were illegally seized. The catalogs for the collections showcased in the museum include the source of the objects or the history of subsequent owners.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum continues to build on the legacy started by Guggenheim through the institutions he founded. It maintains its work for ongoing preservation and curatorial support. The museum provides a public home to various masterpieces while introducing its guests to contemporary art movements and the work of artists from all over the world. – GM

Public Opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 10/25/1959
Public Opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 10/25/1959. Photo: Robert E. Mates © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
Guild Magazine Guggenheim Museum-SRGMInterior_DavidHeald(c)SRGF2019
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
New York; inaugural exhibition 1959; 1071 Fifth Avenue; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York
Installation view: Guggenheim International Exhibition 1960 (November 1, 1960–January 29, 1961), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: Robert E. Mates © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
Guild Magazine Guggenheim Museum-Artistic License-exh_ph001 copy
Installation View: Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, May 24, 2019– January 12, 2020 Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY; 1071 Fifth Avenue. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: William H. Short © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY; 1071 Fifth Avenue. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: William H. Short © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
Installation View: Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, May 24, 2019– January 12, 2020 Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY; 1071 Fifth Avenue. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: William H. Short © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
1071 Fifth Avenue; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York; Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Photo: David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.

Images courtesy of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 

References:

www.guggenheim.org

Rudenstine, Angelica Zander. The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings, 1880–1945, New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1976, p. 204

October 21, 1959: Guggenheim Museum opens in New York City,” This Day in History, History.com.

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