Doing something new every week in 2017 #21: The Guggenheim (NYC)
I don’t quite know how to begin but just like with Maine, I had spent years studying The Guggenheim in my 20s at architecture school, so visiting it in person was an incredible and emotional experience.
The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum or simply The Guggenheim, was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim in 1939 to house the huge body of early modern and abstract artworks that the couple had acquired in the early 1900s.
Its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright loathed New York City, “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum,” Wright wrote in 1949. To him, NYC was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit, but went along with his clients’ wishes to build in the city. He picked the location due to its proximity to Central Park — a refuge from the noisy city.
The concept of The Guggenheim
From the beginning, Wright had wanted to incorporate organic forms into this building. He wanted to build a cocoon to shelter the inhabitants from the noisy NYC.
His approach — a circular building that whisked the visitors up to the top of the building via circular elevators, proceeding downward on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp (no stairs). The museum exhibits were divided up like sections of a citrus fruit, the handrail like the continuous peel.
The museum houses a huge collection of Kandinsky, along with original works by Cezanne, Franz Marc, Mondrian, Monet, Picasso and Pollock — the who’s who of modern and abstract art. The artworks were positioned strategically all along the curved walls of the museum with recessed lighting.
Critics have said that the building overpowers the impressive collection of artworks and I have to agree. Walking through the museum, my attention was firmly on the interior and its inhabitants and not so much on the paintings and installations, which I also loved.
Well, Frank Lloyd Wright never liked to share the spotlight, so I guess it’s only appropriate that his architecture should upstage the work of every other masters of art!
Before I leave you, I thought I’d share this funny New Yorker Cartoon from the 1959 opening of the Guggenheim:
When the museum that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Solomon R. Guggenheim opened to the public in the fall of 1959…franklloydwright.org
Coming up next:
The Empire State Building
The Chrysler Building