The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a must-see for art lovers who happen to find themselves in New York City. An abstract, modern building on Fifth Avenue north of the Metropolitan Museum, the institution contains works from legendary artists of the past century. Color field abstraction paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, early landscapes by
Together, the Guggenheim is more than the sum of its parts. So famous as to be the
Read on to learn about the Guggenheim Museum, one of the world’s most famous art institutions.
Who Were the Guggenheims?
In 1847, a Swiss immigrant named Meyer Guggenheim arrived in the United States to make his fortune. He married a fellow Swiss immigrant and became involved in mining businesses. As the business grew and expanded into smelting, the couple had ten surviving children over the next 25 years. As family-sized increased so did the fortune of the Guggenheims, until they were some of the most prominent citizens of Gilded Age America.
The Guggenheim children continued their family’s business interests while leading fascinating lives of their own. One son, Benjamin Guggenheim, famously and tragically died on the Titanic shipwreck in 1912. The papers reported his reputed brave remarks, “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”
Solomon R. Guggenheim and Hilla von Rebay
A middle son of the family,
Together, Rebay and Guggenheim began collecting modern art and occasionally putting on exhibits in suites at the Plaza Hotel. According to his namesake museum, Guggenheim said “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.” His and Rebay’s devotion to modern art would build one of the most impressive personal collections of art in recent times.
The Museum of Non-Objective Painting
As his personal collection grew, Rebay and Guggenheim reached a new solution for exhibiting the works. Rebay referred to modern abstract art as “
Frank Lloyd Wright Building
In looking to upgrade the museum space, Guggenheim sought out the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright to create a modern building worthy of his ever-growing collection. The project was commissioned in 1943, but due to wartime and other delays, the museum would not open to the public until 1959.
Wright’s design features a spiral ramp with offset galleries, a large interior atrium with skylights, and an almost blinding-white color scheme in concrete. Sadly, neither Wright nor Solomon R. Guggenheim witnessed the new museum’s opening. Wright passed earlier that year, while Guggenheim died in 1949. In his honor, the museum was renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
A Modern Collecting Mission
After Rebay’s tenure as director ended in the early fifties, successive directors expanded the museum’s focus to include figurative works of modern art as well as the purely abstract.
In the 1990s, an expansion and renovation were funded by selling works by Kandinsky and Modigliani. In the early 2000s, the Sackler Center for Arts Education was added to boost the scholarship and outreach potential of the museum. At present, the foundation and Guggenheim Museum are under the direction of Richard Armstrong, who took the reigns in 2008 and who continues to expand the museum’s holdings.
The Guggenheim Foundation Today
Today, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation runs several museums in addition to the Fifth Avenue flagship. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain is an architectural wonder designed by
For those who cannot visit any of these locations, the Guggenheim has also put many of their most famous works online for all to see. Explore their