The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, known by New Yorkers and most of the world simply as The Guggenheim, is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. First established as The Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939, this architectural and artistic wonder is home to thousands of pieces of art that constitute a merging of several private collections through its history. The Guggenheim is unlike any other building or museum in New York and the world and as such no visit to New York is complete without visiting its storied halls.
In 1937, Solomon R. Guggenheim, a businessman and philanthropist who made his money in the Alaska gold mines, created the Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation in order to promote and encourage art education and facilitate a more public display of his private collection of “nonobjective” modern art. The foundation’s goals of promoting art were fast realized when, in 1939, the first Museum of Non-Objective Painting was opened on East 54th Street in New York. Guggenheim was the museum’s first President and his teacher and mentor, German painter Hilla Rebay, was its first director.
Over time, Guggenheim’s collection began to grow including many early modern artists such as Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. Soon, the collection outgrew its space and in 1943 Guggenheim and Rebay wrote to architect Frank Lloyd Wright about their plan for the construction of a new, larger building in New York. Though he was skeptical of its NYC location, Wright agreed to the task. However, it would take him 15 years, more than 700 sketches, and fully 6 sets of working drawings before the museum was complete. Rebay was the one who found the new location at 1071 Fifth Avenue in New York’s Upper East Side, overlooking Central Park.
Solomon Guggenheim died in 1949 and three years later, in 1952, the museum was renamed in his honor. He would never see the new building, now an iconic member the New York City family and even Wright, who passed away in early 1959, would not oversee the official opening of the Guggenheim Museum we know today. The cylindrical building, which is larger on the top than it is on the bottom, opened its doors on October 21, 1959 to a polarized architectural community skeptical of its off-beat shape and effect. However, that same community now universally celebrates the design of The Guggenheim as one of the greatest marvels of American architecture and Wright’s most famous work.
Since that time, the Guggenheim Museum has been a permanent staple on the New York art scene having acquired several additional collections from Karl Nierendorf, Katherine S. Drier, and Hilla Rebay among others. Today, the museum holds several rotating collections as well as hosts special exhibitions. Its permanent collection is spread out among its New York home base as well as its sister museums in Venice, Bilbao, Berlin, and Abu Dhabi. The Guggenheim is also an icon of popular culture having appeared as a recognizable landmark in several films including Men in Black, When in Rome,and Bye-Bye Birdie.
Items from the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum are displayed year-round at its Fifth Avenue location. In addition, several exhibitions visit the site each year, and the museum is seen as an icon for Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modernist, and Contemporary art. Guides offer three tours daily at 11 am, 1, pm, and 3pm which are free with admission. Most visitors to The Guggenheim, however, prefer to wonder its floors at their own pace. There is no dedicated children’s area, though school aged kids will likely find the variety of works and architectural detail of the building educational and fun.
Unlike other museums, The Guggenheim does not divide its work between genres, artists, or movements, but rather displays all of its work in one, continuous exhibit meant to blend together. As the museum’s website explains, “the collection is conceived as an integrated whole that may be continuously enhanced in response to emerging talent as well as a mandate to fill in critical historical gaps.”
Why It’s a Must-See
For anyone interested in Modern and contemporary art and especially those attached to American architecture at least a cursory look at the marvel that is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is essential for any trip to New York. The location of the building on the Upper East Side, next to Central Park, also positions visitors at the heart of some of the highest class neighborhoods on New York City. A trip to the Guggenheim is truly an experience to remember, as this National Historic Landmark will stand out among the crowd of buildings in this “concrete jungle” as one of distinction and history.
Where to Buy It
There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.
Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.
Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum either online or in person.