How did the Guggenheim get its uncommon moniker? It's named after Solomon R. Guggenheim, an American businessman, art collector and philanthropist whose Guggenheim Foundation commissioned design and construction of the museum, which opened in 1959.
When it first opened its doors to the public (after the deaths of Frank Lloyd Wright and its namesake, Solomon R. Guggenheim), the Guggenheim Museum immediately upended the notion that museums should be rectangular, classical, and conservative. Resembling a gigantic coiled ribbon, the spiraling Guggenheim redefined museums and even museum tours. Critics harped that the avant-garde design of the building robbed attention from the works of art housed inside.
The building was a challenge for other reasons as well:
- The inclined ramp walkway and sloping walls meant artwork required special hanging hardware in order to not appear crooked
- The lack of traditional windows limited the amount of natural light that could illuminate the artwork
New York Times art critic John Canaday labeled it, "A war between architecture and painting, in which both come out badly maimed" [source: Vogel].
Despite that and other criticisms, the Guggenheim's curators were able to devise methods of displaying collections in a way that appeased the art establishment and amateur art aficionados alike.
Today, visitors go on tours of the museum as part of art class assignments, to view special exhibitions such as "The Art of the Motorcycle" or simply on family vacations.
By the way, if you're considering a visit to the Guggenheim as part of a family vacation, here are some things to know: As of this writing, adults pay a flat rate of $18 to get in, slightly less for students and seniors, while children under 12 and museum members get in for free; headphones for audio tours are included in the admission price, too.
To learn about what's in the Guggenheim art collection, go to the next page.