Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1937 by philanthropist Solomon R. Guggenheim and artist Hilla von Rebay. Its primary accomplishment has been the construction of a number of international museums:

* The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York
* The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in Venice
* The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, in Bilbao
* Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, in Berlin (built in cooperation with the Deutsche Bank)
* The Guggenheim Las Vegas and Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, in Las Vegas

On July 8, 2006, the Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced it had signed an agreement with the Guggenheim Foundation to build a 30,000 m2 (over 300,000 square feet) "Guggenheim Abu Dhabi" museum. Frank Gehry was to design it, with completion expected in 2011. [ [] "Guggenheim Foundation and Abu Dhabi Plan Museum There," by Carol Vogel, article in The New York Times, July 9, 2006 accessed July 14, 2006]

The Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York was the first to be built, and is sometimes called simply "the Guggenheim". The first was a modern spiral building(designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), and continuing with the Guggenheim Bilbao (designed by Frank Gehry) and the Guggenheim Las Vegas (designed by Rem Koolhaas), the Guggenheim Foundation developed a reputation for hiring major architects and building bold designs. In fact, some claim (or complain) that the Guggenheim buildings are more famous than the art works on display inside them.

The museums exhibit primarily "high" modern and postmodern art, but some branches have also exhibited commercial art. For example, the Solomon R. Guggenheim has shown exhibitions of Giorgio Armani suits and motorcycles; the latter exhibition was later moved to semi-permanent display at the Guggenheim Las Vegas.


The first Guggenheim museum, opened in 1939, was called the "Museum of Non-Objective Painting", and resided at an automobile showroom at East 54th St., in midtown Manhattan. Within a few years work began on the design of a new permanent home for the collection. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, conceived the space as a "temple of spirit" which would facilitate a new way of looking at the modern pieces in the collection. Named the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum after its founder, the landmark building opened in 1959 to large crowds and critical controversy.

Guggenheim's niece, Peggy, donated her art collection and home in Venice, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, to the foundation in the mid-1970s. At her death in 1979 the collection was opened to the public.

In 1992, during renovations and expansion of the Frank Lloyd Wright building, the Guggenheim opened a small Guggenheim Museum SoHo in SoHo. This space remained open even after the main museum was re-opened, but closed in 2002 during a period of scaling-back the foundation's rapid expansion of museum space around the world.

The rapid expansion, led by director Thomas Krens produced several new museums, most notably the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao which was opened in 1997. This major new Guggenheim, designed by Frank Gehry is a central piece in the planned revitalization of the Basque city of Bilbao, Spain. The Basque government funded the construction while the foundation purchased the artworks and manages the facility. The museum has been hailed as one of the most significant cultural buildings completed in the 20th century and a worthy successor to the tradition of design innovation and excellence started by Wright's 1959 Guggenheim in New York.

Also in 1997 a small gallery in the Unter den Linden area of Berlin, Germany was opened as the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin in cooperation with the Deutsche Bank. In 2001 a new museum in Las Vegas, Nevada was built to showcase highlights of the Guggenheim collection and the collection of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Sackler Center for Arts Education was also opened in 2001 on the campus of the original New York building.

There also are plans for another, much larger Guggenheim museum on the waterfront in downtown Manhattan. Frank Gehry was hired once more as the architect, and his essentially complete designs for the building were showcased in 2001 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim. These plans were disrupted, however, by at least two distinct factors. First, the museum experienced financial problems in the economic downturn of the early 2000s. Second, the September 11, 2001 attacks prompted reconsideration of any construction plans in downtown Manhattan. As of 2002, it is therefore unclear whether the waterfront Guggenheim in New York will ever be built. Another project, for a location in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to be designed by French architect Jean Nouvel is also being considered.

On January 19, 2005, philanthropist Peter B. Lewis resigned from his position as chairman of the foundation, expressing his opposition to Krens' continuing moves to expand the Guggenheim globally. He said that he wished the foundation would "concentrate more on New York and less on being scattered all over the world." Lewis had been the largest donor in the history of the Guggenheim, and it is not yet clear what effect his resignation will have on their future plans.


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