Guggenheim Museum

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GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, is an international showplace for twentieth-century art, that is committed to the exhibition of nonobjective art and a movement "from the materialistic to the spiritual from objectivity to non-objectivity." The Guggenheim's holdings began with the private collection of the American mining magnate Solomon R. Guggenheim (18611949). He began actively collecting art in 1928, after a visit to Wassily Kandinsky's studio in Dessau, Germany. Inspired by Kandinsky's active, abstract style, Guggenheim spent much of the second half of his life building a robust collection of European and American conceptual and abstract art in collaboration with the German avant-garde artist Hilla Rebay. Guggenheim amassed paintings, sculptures, and collages by many of the twentieth century's most radical artists, such as Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, René Magritte, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, and Constantin Brancusi. These holdings, in combination with important later acquisitions, such as the Thannhauser Collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, serve as the core of the contemporary Guggenheim Museum's collection.

At the Guggenheim collection's first exhibition space, a former automobile showroom on East Fifty-fourth Street in New York City, called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, Rebay oversaw exhibitions of revolutionary new forms of art developed by artists like Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Piet Mondrian. In 1943, Guggenheim commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design and build a permanent home for the collection. Wright conceived of his spiral design as a space where the visitor could view art "truthfully." He believed that the building would force visitors to rethink their ideas about architecture in much the same way that nonobjective art forced viewers to reconsider the definition of painting and sculpture. The planned building immediately became the locus of considerable controversy. After significant financial, political, and intellectual struggles, the museum opened in 1959, four months after Wright's death. It remains one of the world's most profound architectural expressions.

In addition to the Guggenheim New York, Guggenheim museums include the Venice-based Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a rich collection of objects ranging in style from cubism to surrealism to abstract expressionism accumulated by Solomon's niece. The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin opened in 1997. The Frank O. Gehrydesigned Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, which also opened in 1997, is an undulating titanium-clad structure that further stretches the definition of the modern museum. Special exhibitions as well as multimedia and high-technology art are shown at the Guggenheim Las Vegas, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Also in Las Vegas is the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, a collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.


Art of Tomorrow: Fifth Catalogue of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection of Non-Objective Paintings. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1939.

Davis, John H. The Guggenheims: An American Epic. New York: Morrow, 1978.

Krens, Thomas. "The Genesis of a Museum." In Art of the Century: The Guggenheim Museum and Its Collection. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1993.

Stern, Robert A. M., Thomas Mellins, and David Fishman. New York 1960: Architecture and Urbanism between the Second World War and the Bicentennial. New York: Monacelli Press, 1995.

Joshua Perelman

See also Architecture ; Art: Painting ; Museums .

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York New York)

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