New York City Guide

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Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum is located at 1071 Fifth Avenue, at 89th Street, New York. The buildings distinctive design, makes it high on the list of New York's popular tourist attractions. In 1943, Solomon R. Guggenheim commissioned the famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright to design a building specifically to house his collection of contemporary art. Guggenheim managed to approve the plans prior his death in 1949, and in 1957, construction began. The building was completed in 1959, not long after Frank Lloyd Wright's own death. This controversial structure was compared by some to a giant snail, but others, such as the architect, Philip Johnson, considered it to be one of the most beautiful buildings in New York.

Cast in concrete, the buildings spiral shape is formed by a grand cantilevered ramp that spirals up from the ground, to the dome, which is located almost 100 feet above. The building's circular form is continued in the shape of the galleries, the auditorium, and in the decorative motifs on the floor and walls at the front of the building. Above the ground floor is where the ramp begins, as you make your way along the ramp, there is a total of 74 bays, in which the works of art have been displayed. The ground floor area provides an area that can accommodate  special events and large scale sculptures.

Within the building, a huge glass domed roof casts light down onto the ramp that is said to be a quarter of a mile in length and spirals down the inside of the building, past the art collection, which includes works by Camille Pissarro, Vasily, Chagall, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec, Cézanne, Leger, Robert Mapplethorpe and Robert Gober.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is home to what some believe is the world's finest collection of modern art. To view it, visitors take the elevator to the top floor and walk down the spiral ramp viewing the paintings on their way down.

Guggenheim began his art collection with works by old masters. In the mid 1920's this changed when he met and commissioned his portrait to a young German artist, Baronness Hilda Rebay. Prior to there meeting, Rebay had exhibGuggenheim Museum 3ited with avant-garde groups in Germany and was associated with artists such as Sonia Delaunay, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Leger, Chagall and Wassily Kandinsky. Guggenheim, was introduced to her circle and was soon influenced by her enthusiasm for avant-garde art. He began to accumulate works by these artists until there was no more room to display them on the walls of his apartment. As the fame of his collection grew, he occasionally opened his home to the art world and also started to loan out some of the works of art for exhibitions. Guggenheim then took office space at Carnegie Hall and appointed Rebay to manage his now sizeable collection. In 1937 a foundation was formed and the museum was born.

Guggenheim Museum 4Wright's building has attracted some criticism from some art critics, who feel that the building itself, overshadows the artworks displayed within it. They complain that it is particularly difficult to  hang paintings properly in the shallow windowless exhibition niches that are formed around the central spiral walkway, for although the atrium is generously lit by the large skylight directly above, the niches themselves are mostly in heavy shadow, resulting in the need for a great deal of artificial lighting. The walls of the niches are gently concave, and so are neither vertical nor flat. This results in the need to mount the canvasses proud of the surface of the walls, also, due to the limited space within the niches, sculptures usually have to be mounted on plinths along the walkway itself.

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