The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is home to one of the world's finest collections of modern and contemporary artwork. The Wright building, the youngest to be designated a New York City landmark, is itself one of the greatest works of the Guggenheim Collection.
Solomon R. Guggenheim commissioned Wright to design a unique building to house his collection of avant-garde art in 1943. During the subsequent years of planning and design, Wright applied his vision of fluidic and organic architecture to the museum. Construction began in 1957 and was completed in 1959, six months after Wright's death.
After a two-year restoration and expansion project by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, the Guggenheim Museum reopened on June 28, 1992. Revealing more of Wright's vision, several graceful spaces, such as the small rotunda, are now open to the public for the first time. A ten-story tower designed by Gwathmey Siegel and based on Wright's original schemes for an annex also made its debut. Adjacent to the Wright building and connected to its ramps and outdoor sculpture terrace, the tower features four spacious galleries that offer the museum greater flexibility for the display of its collection and of large-scale contemporary art.
The Guggenheim Museum has one of the world's largest collections of Kandinsky, as well as major holdings of works by Brancusi, Calder, Chagall, Delaunay, Klee, Miro, Picasso, and many other artists of this century. The collection was founded during the late 1920s by Solomon R. Guggenheim with the assistance of his art adviser, Hilla Rebay.
Inspired by Rebay's commitment to abstract painting, Guggenheim began collecting in Europe and America. In 1937 he set up the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation with the specific purpose of creating a museum. Originally called the Museum of Nonobjective Painting, the new institution was housed in a former automobile showroom on East 54th Street. It was renamed for its founder in 1952, and opened to the public at its present location in 1959.
In 1976 Justin K. Thannhauser, one of the great collectors of the modern era, bequeathed masterworks by Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, and others to the museum. The donation, augmented by further gifts from Justin's widow, Hilde Thannhauser, is permanently installed in the expanded galleries of the restored small rotunda, which bears the Thannhausers' name.
Also in 1976 the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, including Cubist, Surrealist, and Abstract, Expressionist works of art, was transferred to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The addition of the collection, which is housed in a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, enhanced the foundation's international profile.
In 1990, the museum acquired the important Panza di Biumo collection of more than two hundred works of American Minimalist art from the 1960s and 1970s, further enriching the Guggenheim Museum's growing collection of the art of this century. In 1993, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation bequeathed nearly 200 photographs and objects by this seminal artist, formally introducing photography into the museum's collection and inagurating a gallery, which bears Mapplethorpe's name, in the museum's fourth floor tower for photography exhibitions. Together, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice comprise the first international museum.