Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York

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El Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is one of the most important architectural landmarks of the 20th century. Located on the Upper East Side, just off Central Park, the Guggenheim Museum, with its characteristic spiral silhouette, has become one of the emblems of New York City.

The museum opened its doors for the first time the 21 October 1959, six months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright and ten years after the death of the founder Solomon Guggenheim.

Brief history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum

The museum owes its name to its founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim, an American magnate who, encouraged and guided by artist and art consultant Hilla Rebay, started an art collection in the late twenties.

Rebay was a follower of the Russian-born painter Vasily Kandinsky, so she encouraged Guggenheim to collect the work of Kandinsky (more than a hundred paintings in the museum's collection), as well as other artists, such as Rudolf Bauer and László Moholy-Nagy .

At first, Guggenheim's own suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York served as an exhibition space for his art collection. Later, at 1937, when his collection had grown too large to house it in his apartment, Guggenheim created the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Two years later, the Foundation opened its first museum: the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, on E 54th Street in Manhattan, under the direction of Hilla Rebay. Four years later, the Foundation asked the innovative architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design a permanent building to house the growing Guggenheim art collection, which at that time included works by Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Amedeo Modigliani, László Moholy -Nagy and Pablo Picasso. Wright used 16 years, 700 sketches and six sets of different plans to complete the project.

The Frank Lloyd Wright building

The commission to build a museum that housed the art collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim came to Wright from Hilla Rebay. The commission to Wright culminated in one of the greatest works of architecture of the twentieth century: a building as famous as the art collection for whose exhibition it was designed.

Wright had several locations in mind in New York before opting for the current location on Fifth Avenue, between 88 and 89 streets. The proximity to Central Park was essential for Wright: not only provided a real break from the noise and traffic of the city, but it was also a source of inspiration.

Guggenheim Museum New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York

Wright's desire was to transfer the organic forms of nature to architecture. The spiral that he designed for the Guggenheim Museum evokes the shell of a nautilus, with continuous spaces that flow freely within each other.

Rejecting traditional museum models, which took visitors through a series of rooms linked together and forced them to retrace their steps as they left, Wright's innovative idea was to quickly take people to the top floor of the building in an elevator so that from there they could descend on foot the smooth continuous and circular ramp while they contemplated the different works of art exhibited.

To achieve human closeness and scale, Wright thought that the paintings should lean slightly backward, as if on an easel, leaning against the oblique base of the walls, slightly tilted to the outside. However, the first director and the members of the patronage of the museum decided to expose the paintings held by bars that projected them towards the outside, far from the walls. At 1961, Thomas Messer assumed the management of the museum and regained Wright's original idea.

The circularity is a constant in the Wright building that is reflected everywhere, from the roundabout and the skylight, to details such as the design of terrazzo floors. But there are also triangles, ovals and squares: the masterpiece of the last stage of Wright's career offers his personal interpretation of the geometry of modernist architecture.

As he did with almost every project he worked on, Frank Lloyd Wright insisted on designing almost every detail, from the chairs to the elevators.

Guggenheim Museum New York
Interior of the museum, photo courtesy of the museum: Art After Dark March 1, 2011 Photo: Christine Butler © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Unfortunately, post-war inflation, changes in the location of the building and the demands of the building code, among other factors, delayed construction for many years and forced countless revisions of Wright's design and plans. Even so, the October 21 1959 the Guggenheim Museum opened its doors to the huge crowd that had been queuing for hours on Fifth Avenue waiting to see it for the first time.

Both then and now, Wright's monument to modernity, with its spiral ramp, roundabout and skylight dome, fascinates visitors by offering a unique space in which to experience art. The large roundabout was also accompanied by another smaller roundabout and a tower originally designed to house studios for artists and apartments for Rebay and Guggenheim.

In 1990 some works of extension of the museum are realized that finalize in 1992 and that add two new plants for offices, four galleries of exhibition more and the reopening of the ramp superior of the rotunda (in the 6ª plant), obtaining a circuit of visit uninterrupted and thus fulfilling the original vision of Wright for the museum.

Wright achieved a brilliant building whose architecture is as innovative today as it was fifty years ago. When the museum opened for the first time, some, including artists, criticized Wright for creating such an unusual museum environment that threatened to eclipse the art it contained. Over the years, however, artists and art curators have found an encouraging challenge in the museum and have even used the building as inspiration when creating works designed specifically for their space.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum stands as an eloquent testament to Wright's architectural genius and the foundational adventure spirit that made it possible.

Vault of the Guggenheim Museum New York
Vault of the Guggenheim Museum New York

The permanent collection of the museum

The history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York is essentially the history of many and diverse private collections that have been increasing (and continue to do so) over the years thanks to important donations and acquisitions, giving rise to a rich and multifaceted permanent collection that dates back to the late nineteenth century and continues to this day.

These are the main milestones in the creation of the museum's current collection:

  • Between 1937 and 1949, Solomon Guggenheim donated approximately 600 works of art by artists such as Marc Chagall, Vasily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian or Pablo Picasso to the Guggenheim Foundation.
  • The donation of the precious collection of Justin K. Thannhauser, made up of masterpieces of Impressionism, post-impressionism and modern French art, and that includes works by Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso and Camille Pissarro, considerably broadened the historical scope from the Guggenheim collection.
  • At the beginning of the nineties, the Guggenheim acquired more than 350 works of minimalist, post-minimalist and conceptual art from the famous collection of Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo and his wife Giovanna, giving greater depth and quality to the postwar funds.
  • At 1948, the Guggenheim Foundation expanded the collections with the acquisition of the complete heritage of New York art dealer Karl Nierendorf (1889-1947), which included works by leading German and Austrian expressionist artists, surrealist painters such as Joan Miró and works on paper by Paul Klee, as well as some of the first pictures of the abstract expressionist Adolph Gottlieb.
  • At 1953, the Guggenheim Foundation received the small but important legacy of one of the most influential figures of the 20th century art world: Katherine S. Dreier (1877-1952). This included important works, such as Brancusi's French Girl (1914-18), a bronze sculpture by Archipenko (1919), a Calder's standing phone (1935), a still life without a title by Juan Gris (1916) and three collages dated between the 1919 and 1921 years of the German dadaist Kurt Schwitters.
  • Thanks to his continuous contacts with artists throughout his life, Hilla Rebay (who was the first to assume the direction of the Guggenheim), gathered an important collection of his own art. Part of this collection, including works by Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian and Schwitters, was donated to the Guggenheim Museum in 1971, four years after his death.
  • At 1992, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation named the Guggenheim Foundation as the beneficiary of some 200 of the best photographs and unique objects of Mapplethorpe. The donation, which was carried out in several phases, turned the Guggenheim into the largest public depository of the work of this important American artist, also inaugurating the collection and program of photography exhibitions of the museum.
  • At 2001, the Bohen Foundation, a private charity, donated 275 works by different artists to the Guggenheim 45, with the central objective of greatly expanding the museum's collection of films, videos and new technologies that represent the dynamic and vital intersection of art with the new millennium. The donated works go from the important photographic works of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sam Taylor-Wood and Sophie Calle to installations that occupy an entire room and incorporate large-scale videos of Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Pierre Huygue and Willi Doherty.

Hours of the Guggenheim Museum New York

  • Monday: 10 am-5: 30 pm
  • Tuesday: 10 am-8: 00 pm
  • Wednesday: 10 am-5: 30 pm
  • Thursday: 10 am-5: 30 pm
  • Friday: 10 am-5: 30 pm
  • Saturday: 10 am-8: 00 pm (from 5: 00-8: 00 pm you enter paying the will)
  • Sunday: 10 am-5: 30 pm
  • Closed on Christmas day.

Rates (year 2019)

  • Adults $ 25
  • Students and retirees (over 65 years old) with identification document $ 18
  • Children under 12 years: Free
  • Entry at will to the museum on Saturdays of 17: 00 to 20: 00 hours.

How to get to the Guggenheim?

  • Take the 4, 5 or 6 metro line and get off at the 86th Street stop. Walk west on 86th Street, turn right on Fifth Avenue and go up to 88th Street.

More information

For more information about the museum and discover the temporary exhibitions that are currently taking place in it, I recommend visiting the official website of the museum. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in English.

Other places of interest and nearby routes