One of the most recognizable building designs in NYC, the cultural museum has stood the test of time through its unique architecture and stunning art collection. The art museum itself is located on 1071 fifth avenue in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is home to continuously expanding collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, early modern art, and contemporary art. The museum would also normally hold exhibitions throughout the year (however due to Covid-19 these may have been subject to change). The museum holds exquisite pieces of art while also being visually stunning itself.
The history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is actually quite an interesting one. The original founder of the museum, Guggenheim himself, was originally a member of a very wealthy mining family. Guggenheim had been collecting old works of art since the 1890’s and had met with artist Hilla von Rebay in 1926. Hilla von Rebay was a European avant-garde artist who had an affiliation towards abstract art that represented both a utopian and spiritual aspect. In the beginning Guggenheim did not have an official “museum” to display his art collection, instead he began to display it at his own apartment in the Plaza Hotel. sd. Soon enough Guggenheim’s collection had become large enough for him to establish the Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation which focused on the appreciation of modern art and all its varieties. The foundation then opened up in 1939 under the name “the Museum of Non-objective Painting” which was led by both Guggenheim and Hilla von Rebay. By the early 1940’s the foundation began to collect so many art pieces that it had become clear that the museum needed a permanent building. this led to Guggenheim and Rebay writing a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright and had asked him to design a building that would house the art they had collected throughout the years. Frank Lloyd Wright accepted the job and took it as an opportunity to experiment with his organic style in an urban environment. it took Wright 15 years to design the final building, during this time he had gone through 700 sketches and six sets of working drawings but at last he was able to come up with the final design for the museum. In 1948 Guggenheim’s collection had expanded by purchasing the estate of art dealer Karl Nierendorf who has about 730 pieces. then in 1949 Guggenheim had died, this led to Hilla von Rebay resigning as the director due to the differentiating philosophies she had with the board of directors of the foundation, who all happened to be members of Guggenheim’s family. Despite this, Rebay had left behind many pieces of her own personal collection which included pieces from Albert Gleizes, Alexander Calder, and many more. Eventually in 1952 the Museum was renamed The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the first to create an art building in NYC that did not follow the traditional style of buildings back then, he had instead made something expressive, and personal. The concept of the building was rather interesting, back then most buildings followed a simple scheme of interconnected rooms that would be reached through stair cases and where a person would be forced to retrace their steps in order to exit the building. Instead The Guggenheim Museum was more of a slope, one where upon entering the building you would go up an elevator and then descend via the slope slowly admiring the different pieces of art presented to you. In addition in the center of the slope, in the Atrium, would be the final art piece for visitors to view. The location of the building was carefully chosen as well, the first couple of locations thought of where the Bronx, and even Riverdale. Eventually Wright, Rebay, and Guggenheim had settled n 89th st and 5th avenue, overlooking Central Park. This actually helped with cancelling noise pollution and provided the museum with relief from the urban environment that is NYC. Despite how long Wright had worked on the design of the building not all of his original plans had actually gone through. For example Wright had originally wanted a stone finish for the building but eventually it was turned down for a concrete design in order to cut costs. Wright had also incorporated a large rotunda into his design in which Rebay and Guggenheim could have lived in, however this was eventually used as office space and storage.
After Rebay had stepped down as the director of the museum James Johnson Sweeney had become the new director. Sweeney had a very different view on objective painting and sculpture, unlike Rebay, Sweeney had embraced modern objective art and worked on expanded the Guggenheim collection in order to include it. Sweeney had began to include works that where not only in the 20th century, Sweeney had included artists such as Joseph Csaky, Jean Arp, Calder Alberto Giacometti, and David Smith. During his time the foundation has also received 28 different important pieces of work as a gift. These gifts where given to the foundation by Katherine S. Dreier, one of the founders of America’s first modern art museum collection, also known as the Société Anonyme. Katherine S. Dreier was one of Rebays colleagues and among her collection include works from Juan Gris, Alexander Archipenko, and Brancusi. Sweeney also managed to acquire works from other artists such as David Hayes, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Sweeney had also overseen the final 6 years of the museums constructions and during these times he had a strained relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright. Unfortunately Frank Lloyd Wright had passed away 6 months prior to the opening of the Guggenheim Museum. The Museum building turned out to be his final work and became one of his most well known due to its nature and location. The Manhattan skyline was known for its typically rectangular designs, so a building that was cylinder shaped provided a sharp contrast in the city. Interestingly enough the building design was already receiving criticism for its unique aesthetic. it was believed that the building would actually overshadow the art that it held inside. However, Wright believed that it would in fact enhance the art inside. Finally, after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright and Solomon Guggenheim the museum had opened on October 21st, 1959.
In 1961 Sweeney was succeeded as the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum by Thomas M. Messer. Messer proceeded to be the director of the Museum for nearly 27 years, the longest of any major art institutions. in 1962 Messer decided to put on a large exhibit with a combination of the Guggenheim’s paintings with sculptures. However, presenting three dimensional sculptures had was seen as a problem to the museum nature of having a downwards spiral. The exhibit was actually a great success, though despite that, Messer recalls being scared and having a haunting feeling that this exhibit would be his last. Then, in 1963, Messer had struck a deal with Justin K Thannhauser, who provided 73 private pieces for the museums permanent collection. These art pieces included Impressionist, Post-Impressionists, and French modern masterpieces, it also included works from artists such as Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, and even Pablo Picasso. After Sweeney came a few other new directors of the museum, such as Thomas M. Messer, and Thomas Krens who helped create new paths for expansions of the museums. Some of these expansions include a new theater (Peter B. Lewis Theater), a student sketching center at the entrance of the Sackler Center, and restoration of the exterior.