The Guggenheim Museum in New York was opened in 1959. This was controversial at the time, as the round building was very different in design from what had been seen in the city until then. Today, the New York Guggenheim is one of the most important museums in the world thanks to its location, architecture, collection and much more besides.
The New York Guggenheim is the first in a series of museums carrying the Guggenheim name. The collection was originally founded by Solomon R. Guggenheim with the help of his art adviser, Hilla Rebay. He also established the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, with the aim of increasing appreciation for modern art. This allowed his work to be continued even after his death. Today, there are three other Guggenheim museums in the world: In Venice, Bilbao and Abu Dhabi (the last one is supposed to be opened in 2017). But only the New York establishment allows you to enjoy the rich history of this very particular museum group.
The round museum strikes an imposing figure among the rectangular high-rises on Fifth Avenue; its organic form has earned it the nickname ‘the teacup.’ Construction started in 1943 following the plans of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright was not a fan of Manhattan and wanted to create peace and space with his museum, which is why he doubled the width of the pavement in front of the museum. Throughout the year, there are people enjoying their lunch on the low wall of the museum. Wright never got to see his crowning achievement as he died six months before the opening of the museum in 1959.
The Guggenheim is striking both outside and, especially, inside. Everything here is on the round and visitors walk along the artwork from the top to the bottom of the building via a spiral-shaped floor. This is truly unique and other clever elements have also been integrated within the building. The entrance ceiling has deliberately been kept low, creating an optical illusion that the spiral portion of the museum (and attendant roof skylight) is even bigger and higher than it already is.
The Guggenheim has an impressive collection of masterpieces. It hosts the world's largest collection of the Russian painter Kandinsky, including nearly a hundred paintings and sixty works on paper. Many of the pieces in the Guggenheim were donations. For instance, in 1976, Justin K. Thannhauser, one of the world’s greatest collectors of modern art, bequeathed masterpieces by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Picasso, Van Gogh and many others to the museum.
It is no coincidence that the Guggenheim – with its organic forms – is built so close to a park. For the museum to fit within the natural environment as well was, in fact, part of the architect’s design from the outset. For visitors, this is a big plus: After visiting the museum, you can go enjoy Central Park.