The Guggenheim Museum in New York, the story of the great temple of modern art

The construction of a round museum, which changed stairs for ramps, with sloping walls to expose the paintings, was not only an architectural challenge then, in the 50s, but also a source of multiple and heated controversies that involved artists, administrations, designers and , in general, to all New York citizens. Inaugurated on October 21, 1959, the building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in front of Central Park to house the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum –which until then and since its creation in 1937 was located on the Upper East Side– has inspired generations of visitors as a temple of the spirit where radical art and architecture converge. An art school and showcase of the world‘s avant-garde creativity in a universal building recently declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was born with the mission of promoting an understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art through exhibitions, educational programs, research initiatives, and publications. The one in New York was his first museum, but the international constellation of Guggenheim museums also includes the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, in a historic building in the Italian city; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, flag, with the signature of Frank Gehry, of an ambitious urban plan that ended up transforming the silhouette, and even life, of the Basque capital; and the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a megalomaniac project, also by Gehry, which plans to open its doors in 2022.

The New York museum is a lesson in how architecture and art can interact. Sixty years later, the proposal remains in force. To celebrate its anniversary, the institution promoted the creation of a podcast that features the presentation of Roman Mars, prestigious speaker and creator of the 99% Invisible program, focused on design and architecture. This podcast, hosted on the museum’s website, now allows a different visit that Mars himself defines with these words: “It’s like walking around the building with an extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend., rather than with a formal architecture professor. I have been given the freedom to take the greatness of the museum for granted and explore the quirks, modifications and restrictions that make it a dynamic, rich and ever-evolving masterpiece. “

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The founder of the museum, Mr. Guggenheim, died ten years before its opening, while Frank Lloyd Wright, by then already one of the most famous architects in the world, made up to 700 sketches of the work, the only museum he would design throughout of his career, while imagining new ideas and discarding others, such as the red facade, which never materialized. Arranging the artwork on the curved walls was another big challenge.

Detail of the exterior today.

The final location was also not free from debate, and the final decision forced Wright to design a predominantly vertical building, and not horizontal, as he had preferred in other projects. The spiral design resembles the shell of the Nautilus, with continuous spaces that flow. The teacher criticized the rigid forms of the geometry of modern architecture, convinced that geometry suggests certain human ideas, such as states of mind and feelings: the circle, the infinite; the triangle, the structural unit; the square, the integrity.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, on a visit to the museum, still under construction.

The architect died six months before seeing his work inaugurated, but already practically finished. The building was extended in 1992, with an adjacent rectangular tower, and restored in 2006. Inside it houses a permanent collection with works by Van Gogh, Manet, Gauguin, Calder, Manet, Mondrian, Chagall and Picasso, among many other artists, at the same time that it programs continuous temporary exhibitions that strengthen its agitator spirit, capable of stimulating the art world with workshops, study spaces and numerous activities. True to its founding project, despite having entered its sixties, the Guggenheim is still very young.

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