Little Bits of History

October 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2017

1959: The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum opens. Guggenheim had been an American businessman as well as collector of art. His family had mining businesses including the Yukon Gold Company in Alaska. He married Irene Rothschild and they had three daughters. Guggenheim began collecting old masters in the 1890s and by 1919 at the age of 50 he retired from business to spend more time collecting art. In 1930, he began displaying his private collection which now included not just old masters, but modern artists, as well. His collection was in his apartment and in 1937 he formed the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation to help increase interest in modern art.

As his collection grew, he needed more space and in 1945 moved to the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. His collection continued to grow and it became obvious he needed a larger, more permanent space. He commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright, the legendary architect, to design a new space – the Guggenheim Museum, in 1948. Hilla Rebay had been managing his collections for some time before she was able to work with Wright to create the space for the ever expanding collection. She asked Wright to create a space as a “temple of the spirit” allowing visitors to view modern art in a new way. Wright produced four different sketches for the initial design.

The design of the space is a continuous spiral, rather than separate floors. It contained a variety of geometric shapes, each with their own meaning to the architect. The original plans included an adjoining tower with studios for artists, but it was never built. The building opened in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, ten years after Guggenheim died and just months after Wright died. There was controversy even on opening day with some concern over whether the building itself would overshadow the works it was built to display. It had stood the test of time and had grown organically since opening day.

The permanent collection continues to grow. The nearly 2 million visitors each year are also given opportunities to seen exhibitions on loan from other establishments or private collections. There are also Guggenheim Museums in Venice, Abu Dhabi, and Bilbao. Guggenheim’s original collection has been added to with several major acquisitions and bequests, allowing for a breathtaking experience. The works are not displayed by type or era, but as a continuous feast for the eyes, mind, and heart. The building itself is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness. – Joan Miro

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works: if from the head, almost nothing. – Marc Chagall

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. – Edgar Degas

Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body. – Wassily Kandinsky



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