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Discover what made the future: The Guggenheim

Wright famously claimed that ‘his’ museum would make the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art “look like a Protestant barn”.

Sitting on the corner in Upper East Manhattan, New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, often referred to as The Guggenheim, is distinguishable from its surrounding rectangular buildings.

The collection consists of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art. This is guided by the board but mostly ends up being guided by the director which has resulted in varying genres of art being pursued over the years. The museum was established by Solomon R. Guggenheim and Hilla von Rebay as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. This was changed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum after his death in 1952.

The museum is famous for its sizeable collection of art but also for being one of the landmarks of 20th-century architecture. Hilla von Rebay wrote asking Wright to design a “temple of the spirit”, this no doubt got the creative juices flowing and over the next 15 years Wright produced 700 sketches and six sets of working drawings.

The structure has a long ramp that starts from the ground and works its way up through a continuous spiral up to the ceiling, which as a part of the atrium, becomes the final ‘art instalment’ as per Wright’s vision. The design purposefully went against the conventional approach in that visitors are led through interconnected rooms and have to retrace their steps when exiting. The spiral is shaped like a nautilus shell, a beautifully curved sea mollusc.

Wright pushed for a stone exterior finish but cement was used to save on cost. The museum’s interior, and the museum itself, were separately designated as New York City Landmarks in 1990 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2008. It was placed on the World Heritage List as a part of Wright’s famous works.

The Guggenheim was the final instalment from the talented architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

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