Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York

Guggenheim Museum in New York. Architecture of space management

One of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum [3] is an art museum in the United States, founded by the philanthropist and collector Solomon R. Guggenheim. It is located in Manhattan, within the so-called museum mile. One of the oldest and most visited collections of contemporary art in the world.

Official site: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright Architectural style: Deconstructivism Construction: 1956-1959 Official site: Address: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128, United States

The Museum was designed by Frank Wright and completed in 1956 and is one of the most successful examples of contemporary architecture that combines state-of-the-art technology, design and functional convenience.

Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The architecture of the building

The museum building itself is of great interest because of its unusual architecture. The look of the museum, even after 60 years, is still eye-catching and gives the impression of ultra-modern construction and high-tech architecture.

The museum is a space with two atriums placed on a massive base – the second floor line. The small atrium in the left wing of the museum is divided in the middle by a concrete strip and the main atrium in the right wing with a façade of four spiraling and rising concrete strips.

The form of the large atrium imitating a tornado or a mollusk shell is also a successful functional use – the internal architecture continues the external one – there is a six-level ramp from the first to the sixth floor along the entire height of the atrium.

For the museum it is the creation of a successful exhibition space – a continuous wall for exhibitions. It is recommended to start viewing the exhibition by taking the elevator to the sixth floor and go down the ramp to the first level.

For architecture, it is an example of creating an internal space of planes that create and control the vector of movement of visitors.

Some interesting facts about the Guggenheim Museum:

Frank Lloyd Wright wanted the building’s façade clad in marble in the architect’s “original” color, Cherokee Red, Wright considered red the color of creation – Frank Lloyd Wright: “Red is the color of creation.”

Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, exhibits and photos

The idea was not approved by the client Solomon Guggenheim or his personal art advisor Hilda von Ribey;

For the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Wright, the architect of the LEGO Museum building, they created a model of one of his most famous works. Inside are 744 pieces of various shapes that can be assembled into the architect’s great creation with all the essential elements including the famous spiral and the inscription The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum above the main entrance

The idea for the architecture of the great atrium is borrowed from Bramante’s staircase from the Vatican Museum.

Staircase with a triangular line of ascent – there are also strict geometric forms inside the building with its rounded shapes and flowing lines

One of the conditions for implementing the project was to place the museum building in the center of the city and near a wooded area. The location was ideal – opposite the central park, in the heart of the city.

Some of the artists of the time didn’t like the architecture of the museum and they refused to exhibit in the museum explaining that the architecture of the museum would distract visitors from their works.

The exhibition “Russia! – the most comprehensive exhibition of Russian art outside of Russia since the end of the Cold War was held at the museum in 2005.

Interior atrium used for exhibits

A photo of the main participants in the project next to the layout of the museum building – from left to right: Frank Lloyd Wright, Hilda von Ribey, Solomon Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Museum in New York

Guggenheim Museum in New York

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City bears the name of its founder, a hereditary millionaire industrialist, collector and philanthropist, the son of a fortunate immigrant who came to Philadelphia from Switzerland. Clearly standing out from its surroundings, the building is located in the most populous borough of Manhattan, on a stretch of Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile between East 88th and 89th Streets. Before settling in permanently, the museum had to use rented space for more than 20 years, growing its collection in the process.

The sign above the main entrance to the Guggenheim Museum

The site for the new Art Nouveau structure was chosen carefully, and in the end it was decided that a Central Park in front of the facade would help protect it from urban noise and the appearance of concrete high-rise buildings across the street, but most importantly, it would give a sense of freedom. Several options had been considered before, including the Hudson-facing west end of the Riverdale neighborhood in the borough of the Bronx.

Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: history of creation

The first works purchased by the millionaire were works by Italian and French artists of the Early Renaissance, as well as paintings by American and French artists of the 19th century. The collection began to form in the late 1920s, and in 1937 the non-profit Guggenheim Foundation was established, whose main objective was to support and popularize contemporary art.

A key role in the development of the concept of the future museum collection was played by the German baroness – abstractionist artist, art historian Hilla von Ribeye. The chosen direction – avant-garde – corresponded to her hobbies and interests of the Guggenheim. In the years that followed, the collection was enriched by donations and the acquisition of other collections from the contemporary art segment.

At first, Guggenheim exhibited his collection in various American museums. His goal was to acquaint his fellow countrymen with the unusual work of abstractionists such as Mondrian, Kandinsky, Bauer and others. In 1939, the Museum of Non-Figurative Painting was opened at No. 24, East 54th Street. The first exhibition, “The Art of the Future,” was held there in June of that year. In 1952 it became known as the Guggenheim Museum.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from a bird's eye view

A curious fact has to do with Hilla von Ribey. She was Guggenheim’s companion, artistic advisor and confidant, organizer of exhibitions, initiator of the construction and participant in discussions on the design of the new building, as well as the first director of the museum. Solomon listened to her advice, but Hilla’s relationship with the founder’s family did not work out. Shortly after her friend’s death in 1949, the Baroness was forced to resign her position. At the time, Harry, the philanthropist’s son, was the chairman of the Board of Directors. The reason for the incident seems to have been the complicated nature of the artist and her radical positions regarding the further development of the museum. She was not invited to the opening of the new building on Fifth Avenue and never crossed its threshold. Hillah stopped appearing in public and engaging in public activities. Ribeye spent her last years on her estate in Connecticut.

Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design, New York

In the segment of contemporary art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s collection is considered one of the largest in the world. It features the works of authors of the XIX-XXI centuries.

Guggenheim Collections

The museum’s main collection consists of private collections, especially those of Solomon Guggenheim himself, his niece Peggy, Justin Tannhauser, Carl Nirendorf, Giuseppe Panza di Bumo, Catherine Dreyer, etc.

Top floor

Following the departure of Hilla von Ribeye from the museum, the Board of Directors approved the initiative of the new museum director to expand the collection with works that were different from the original concept. Thanks to this decision, today the museum’s collection includes works not only by abstractionists and avant-gardists, but also by representatives of other modern art movements:

  • expressionists and post-impressionists;
  • minimalists and post-minimalists;
  • surrealists;
  • conceptualists;
  • Modernists, etc.

In addition, the Foundation has sculptural and photographic collections.


The permanent exposition includes works by famous masters. Among them:

  • Kandinsky;
  • Mondrian;
  • Picasso;
  • Klee;
  • Chagall;
  • Léger;
  • Kokoschka;
  • Van Gogh and many others.

In spite of a certain diversity of the museum collection, the collection is a unified whole. There is no division into specific mediums, time periods, or geographic coordinates.

Layout of the exhibition halls

Temporary Exhibitions

The Foundation is engaged in exhibition activities. The Fifth Avenue building provides space for temporary exhibitions. On the other hand, traveling museum collections are traditionally exhibited in branches located in Bilbao, Venice and Berlin, and are also shown in other museums.

Initiatives and events

The museum hosts musical performances, performances, installations, film screenings, and lectures. Games, workshops, talk shows, and guided tours are organized here. There are educational programs, workshops, courses for children and family studios. For a calendar of events, visit the official website.

Glass dome above atrium

Guggenheim Museum building in New York City

The collection has changed its address more than once over the course of its existence. Due to a significant increase in the collection in the early 1940s, the museum moved from 54th Street to a townhouse at 1071 Fifth Avenue, where a new building later appeared. Between 1956-59, the collection temporarily occupied space at No. 7 East 72nd Street.

Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, expositions and photos

The most influential architect of the American Institute of Architects and the most creative genius of American architecture, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the brilliant architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was responsible for the design of the unusual structure. He was approached by Hilla von Ribey in 1943 with a proposal to create a “temple-museum of objectlessness.” From that moment until the Guggenheim building officially opened, 16 years passed. Delays were due to rising wartime prices for building materials, the founder’s death, and management turmoil. In fact, construction began in 1956.

About seven different plans were proposed by Wright before final approval of the project. The main goal was to create something unusual and special, so traditional museum models had to be abandoned. After the chosen design was announced, there was a wave of criticism – too bold, too ridiculous, totally inappropriate, horrible and uncomfortable. Years later, however, this was replaced by rave reviews.

Museum building

Frank Lloyd Wright did not live to see the final completion of his most apotheosis for several months. The new building opened its doors to the general public in 1959.

In the early 1990s, the facility was renovated and expanded with the construction of an additional tower. It was included in Wright’s design, but remained out of sight for 30 years. In the mid-2000s the facade was extensively restored.


The whitewashed round-shaped building externally resembles an inverted spiral or a pyramidal tower. The interior space is an atrium surrounded by a continuous ramp and covered by a glass dome. This layout allows you to see what is happening on different levels on the opposite side, and if you want – even communicate at a distance (but only in sign language!). The idea of constructing a spiral ascent without supporting columns was inspired by the famous Vatican staircase Moma.


Structural forms of the building are organic and plastic. They freely flow into each other. Wright explained that the symbolic meaning of his creation is infinity (circle), progress (spiral), structural unity (triangle) and integrity (square). All of these, according to the architect, in one way or another have to do with human feelings, moods and creativity.

Художественный музей в Базеле, Швейцария.

According to the idea of the author of the project, the examination of the expositions was to start from the top, where visitors could go up in an elevator. To see the permanent and temporary collections they would have had to go down an inclined descent. Unfortunately, the architect’s idea was neglected.


Next to the described site is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is definitely worth a visit.

Branches of the Guggenheim Museum

The foundation is working to create a global network of contemporary art museums. It currently has four Guggenheim museums:

  • in New York; – founded in 1951; – opened in 1997;
  • Berlin – opened in 1997.

Branches in SoHo (Manhattan) and Las Vegas closed in 2002 and 2008. Museum buildings are under construction in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and Guadalajara (Mexico). Plans are underway for Vilnius (Lithuania), Helsinki (Finland), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Singapore and Hong Kong.

Spiral ascent tiers with panoramic view

Opening Hours

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is open Wednesday through Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays until 8:00 p.m. Box Office hours are half an hour earlier.

The store can be visited daily from 09:30 to 18:00. Tuesday and Saturday until 8:30 p.m.

“Cafe 3 is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Saturdays until 7:30 p.m. Its panoramic windows allow you to enjoy the views of Central Park.

The Wright Bistro Restaurant offers American cuisine. Its doors are open Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 15:30 and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 15:00.

Architectural details

Ticket prices

Cost to visit the Guggenheim Museum in New York City:

  • For adults, $25;
  • For students and people over 65 years old – $ 18;
  • Children under 12 years old are free.

On Saturdays from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the museum runs a “free admission” promotion. During this time, the cost of admission is regulated by visitors themselves. However, there is a recommended amount of $10. Payment for the promotion is in cash only.

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