The Guggenheim Museum – Solomon R. Guggenheim’s Great Gift to New York City

By Andrew Regan

New York is more than America’s largest city: it has been and continues to be the inspiration behind much of the country’s most enduring pieces of art and literature. From Langston Hughes to Jonathan Safran Foer, and Jackson Pollock to Mark Rothko, New York City has been the thriving hub of many an American cultural movement since the beginning of the 1900s. This fact is made even more evident by the city’s wide array of museums and art galleries, the most prominent of which are The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, among a host of others.

Both artistically and architecturally, New York’s Guggenheim Museum (technically called The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) is one of the city’s most interesting landmarks and artistic forums. The eminent novelist E.B. White once said, “New York is to the nation what the white spire is to the village,” and it might be possible to say that, artistically speaking, the white spire of New York is the Guggenheim. Situated at the corners of 89th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, its architect Frank Lloyd Wright set out to make the building look like what has been described as “a white ribbon curled into a cylindrical stack,” and was intent on his avant-garde design making the Metropolitan Museum of Art look like “a Protestant barn”. Though widely condemned at the time, the building is now seen as one of New York’s finest – as is often the case with the best pieces of architecture.

Originally set up in 1937 as “The Museum of Non-Objective Painting”, the Guggenheim was principally established to exhibit work by early modernists, like Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky. In particular, it continues to exhibit the work of Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock on an ongoing basis. Recent exhibitions have included various showings of Russian and socialist art, Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition, David Smith: A Centennial and the images of Baghdad-born artist Zaha Hadid. Its future planned showcases include the work of Lucio Fontana, and Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso. This eclectic range of artists and artistic works demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Guggenheim Museum to its original goal, to showcase the work of new modernism, whilst still embracing new forms of modern art in the twenty-first century. Although “high” modern and postmodern art have been the main artistic lines pursued by the Guggenheim, it has also been host to a variety of commercial art, including seasons exhibiting motorcycles and Giorgio Armani suits.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is part of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded in 1937 by eminent philanthropist Solomon R. Guggenheim and artist Hilla von Rebay. Since the establishment of the first Guggenheim in New York, the foundation has gone on to open further museums in Bilbao, Venice, Berlin and Las Vegas, and is in the process of establishing another Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi. For the artistic holiday maker, a perfect vacation idea might be a trip around the world to all the Guggenheim museums. This idea is not even as expensive as it might seem: for example, there are Hilton Hotels in all of these cities, and using the Hilton Honors rewards system, travelling art fans can use their accumulated points to reclaim hotel rewards as well as air miles with a variety of different airlines, to make their worldwide Guggenheim tour a vacation with a difference.

Andrew Regan is an online journalist who enjoys socialising at his local Edinburgh rugby club.

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