The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation,
New York, operates the Peggy Guggenheim Collection,
the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Guggenheim
At age 66, the wealthy American industrialist Solomon
R. Guggenheim begins to form a large collection of important
modern paintings by artists such as Vasily Kandinsky,
Paul Klee, and Marc Chagall. He is guided in this pursuit
by a young German artist and theorist, Hilla Rebay (born
Baroness Hilla Rebay von Ehrenwiesen). In July 1930,
Rebay brings Guggenheim to Vasily Kandinsky’s
Dessau studio, and Guggenheim purchases several of the
artist’s paintings and works on paper; he will
eventually acquire more than 150 works by Kandinsky.
Guggenheim’s growing collection is installed in
his private apartment at the Plaza Hotel in New York.
Small exhibitions of newly acquired works are held there
intermittently for the public. Rebay organizes a landmark
loan exhibition entitled Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection
of Non-Objective Paintings, which travels to Charleston,
South Carolina; Philadelphia; and Baltimore.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is formed for the
“promotion and encouragement and education in
art and the enlightenment of the public.” Chartered
by the Board of Regents of New York State, the Foundation
is endowed to operate one or more museums. Solomon Guggenheim
is elected the first President of the Foundation, and
Rebay is appointed its Curator.
At age 40, Peggy Guggenheim, Solomon’s niece,
opens Guggenheim Jeune, a commercial art gallery in
London representing such avant-garde artists as Jean
Cocteau, Kandinsky, and Yves Tanguy. Initially advised
by Herbert Read and Marcel Duchamp, she soon begins
to amass her own important collection of Surrealist
and abstract art.
Under the auspices of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation,
the Museum of Non-Objective Painting opens in rented
quarters at 24 East Fifty-fourth Street. Under Rebay’s
direction, the museum—decorated with pleated gray
velour on the walls and thick gray carpeting, and featuring
recorded classical music and incense—showcases
Solomon’s collection of American and European
Peggy opens Art of This Century, a unique museum/gallery
on Fifty-seventh Street in New York, designed by Frederick
Kiesler. The inaugural installation features her own
collection displayed in unconventional ways. Over the
next five years, Peggy mounts dozens of important exhibitions
devoted to European and American artists such as Giorgio
de Chirico, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and
Solomon and Rebay commission Frank Lloyd Wright to design
a permanent structure to house the Museum of Non-Objective
Painting. Over the next fifteen years, Wright will make
some 700 sketches, and six separate sets of working
drawings, for the building. The Foundation acquires
a tract of land between East Eighty-eighth and Eighty-ninth
Streets on Fifth Avenue, but construction is delayed
until 1956 for various reasons, foremost among them
The year after Peggy exhibits her now fabled collection
of Cubist, Surrealist, and European abstract painting
and sculpture at the Venice Biennale, she purchases
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on Venice’s Grand Canal,
installs her collection there, and opens it to the public
in 1951. She establishes the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation
to operate and endow the museum.
Rebay resigns and James Johnson Sweeney is named Director
of the museum. The name of the Museum of Non-Objective
Painting is changed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
to designate it as a memorial to its founder, who died
in 1949, and to signify a shift toward a broader view
of modern and contemporary art. Under Sweeney, the Foundation
purchases several sculptures by Constantin Brancusi
and other important artists whose work does not fall
within the category of non-objective art.
The museum opens to an enthusiastic public on October
21, six months after Wright’s death. From the
beginning, the relationship between the breathtaking
architecture of the building and the art it was built
to display inspires controversy and debate. One critic
writes that the museum “has turned out to be the
most beautiful building in America ... never for a
minute dominating the pictures being shown,” while
another insists that the structure is “less a
museum than it is a monument to Frank Lloyd Wright.”
One year after the resignation of Sweeney, Thomas M.
Messer is appointed Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum. He will remain in that position for twenty-seven
years, during which time he greatly expands the collection
and establishes the Guggenheim as a world-class institution
known for its art scholarship and special exhibitions.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation receives a major
portion of Justin K. Thannhauser’s renowned personal
collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and
early modern art. Over the years, Thannhauser and his
widow, Hilde, will give the Guggenheim more than seventy
works, including thirty-four by Picasso alone. This
donation greatly enlarges the scope of the collection
to include painting of the nineteenth century, beginning
with Camille Pissaro’s The Hermitage at Pontoise
(ca. 1867). Under the terms of the gift, the Thannhauser
Collection is on permanent view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim
Peggy Guggenheim transfers ownership of her collection
to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation with the understanding
that the works of art will remain in Venice. Peggy Guggenheim
dies in 1979 and the Foundation takes ownership of the
palazzo. Thomas M. Messer appoints Philip Rylands as
Administrator of the Collection. In 1980, Messer is
named Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is contracted by
USIA (Washington, DC) to operate and maintain the US
Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. The following year
the Foundation purchases the building from the Museum
of Modern Art, New York, with funds provided by the
Peggy Guggenheim Collection Advisory Board. The Peggy
Guggenheim Collection opens to the public year-round
for the first time, and mounts its first temporary exhibitions.
Thomas Krens succeeds Messer as Director of the Foundation.
Krens takes charge of an expansion program already under
way in New York, which will include an annex designed
by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects, and initiates
planning for a comprehensive restoration of the Wright
The Wright building is closed to the public so that
the restoration and expansion can begin. Over the next
two years, masterpieces from the collection are exhibited
in a triumphant international tour to Venice, Madrid,
Tokyo, Australia, and Montreal.
Through purchase and gift, the Solomon R. Guggenheim
Foundation acquires the Panza di Biumo Collection of
Minimalist and Conceptual Art. This acquisition dramatically
enlarges the Foundation’s permanent collection,
giving it great depth in works by American postwar masters
Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Robert Ryman, and Richard Serra,
Agreements are signed between the Basque Administration
and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to create a
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The Basque Administration
will fully fund the $100 million construction and will
make annual contributions to the operating budget. The
Foundation will provide curatorial and administrative
expertise as well as the core art collection and programming.
Frank Gehry is chosen as the architect of the future
The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation gives the Guggenheim
200 vintage photographs by Mapplethorpe, as well as
a grant to launch a photography program. Contemporary
photography quickly becomes a major area of collecting
for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and within
a decade it is able to mount major exhibitions based
on its holdings.
After a three-year restoration of its interior, the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum reopens to great acclaim.
An eight-story annex, designed by Gwathmey Siegel and
Associates Architects, opens simultaneously. The Guggenheim
Museum SoHo opens. During its ten years in operation,
the museum, designed by Arata Isozaki, will mount many
small but important exhibitions focusing on artists
such as Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, and Antoni Tàpies
as well as on art created in new media.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection expands its operations
for the first time beyond the confines of Peggy Guggenheim’s
palazzo, an expansion that would continue through 2006,
by which time the Collection had doubled in size.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opens and is instantly
hailed as an architectural masterpiece. Frank Gehry’s
titanium and steel structure becomes the first work
of museum architecture to rival the Wright building
in its achievement and influence. Guided by the Solomon
R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Bilbao museum forms an
important collection of postwar American and European
painting and sculpture that complements the Foundation’s
holdings in New York and Venice. The exhibition program
includes exhibitions that originate at the New York
Guggenheim, as well as at other internationally prominent
museums. In only a few years, the Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao is widely credited with reviving the reputation
and fortunes of the Basque region.
The Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, opens. The site in Germany establishes a special connection to the historical roots of the Guggenheim Foundation, inasmuch as the Guggenheim family originally came from Germany and Hilla Rebay, the first director of the Guggenheim Museum, emigrated to New York from what was at that time Prussia. This small museum, designed by Richard Gluckman, is a unique partnership between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank. Along with a robust exhibition schedule, one of the important programs at the Deutsche Guggenheim is the commissioning of new works. The exhibition space hosts three to four important exhibitions each year, many of which showcase a work specially commissioned by an artist. Over the next eight years, the museum features exhibitions of several distinguished international artists including William Kentridge, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter, James Rosenquist, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Rachel Whiteread, Bill Viola, and Lawrence Weiner.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation signs an alliance
agreement with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg,
which becomes a trilateral alliance in early 2001 when
these institutions are joined by the Kunsthistorisches
Museum in Vienna. The objectives of the trilateral alliance
are to expand international cultural relations; to make
each museum’s collections accessible to broader
audiences; to pursue collection sharing strategies that
complement each institution’s holdings; to implement
joint exhibition, publishing, educational, and retail
initiatives; and to facilitate each institution’s
Philip Rylands is promoted from Deputy Director to Director
of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the State Hermitage
Museum jointly open the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum
at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. This small museum,
designed by Rem Koolhaas, is devoted to masterworks
from the permanent collections of the allied museums.
Simultaneously, a large Kunsthalle called the Guggenheim
Las Vegas opens at the Venetian and provides a venue
for the Foundation’s popular exhibition The Art
of the Motorcycle; the exhibition runs for an unprecedented
sixteen months, at which time the Guggenheim Las Vegas
Richard Serra’s monumental site-specific installation
The Matter of Time (2005) opens at the Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao. The largest sculpture commission in history,
it is hailed by critics as a singular achievement.
Restoration of the exterior of the Frank Lloyd Wright
building begins. Work will be finished in time for the
fiftieth anniversary of the museum’s opening.
Lisa Dennison is promoted to director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Prior to her appointment, Dennison had been deputy director and chief curator at the Guggenheim since 1996 and a member of the Curatorial department since 1978, during which time she organized thirty-five major exhibitions and helped to strengthen the permanent collection.
Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to establish a world-class museum devoted to modern and contemporary art. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, to be designed by Gehry, will be built in the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island. The museum will form its own major collection of contemporary art and will also exhibit masterworks from the Guggenheim Foundation’s global collections.
Officials representing the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation provide details of the operating framework for the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The operating agreement has been established for fifteen years—following five years for design development and construction.
Thomas Krens steps down as director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to assume a leadership role in developing the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. In his twenty years heading the foundation, Krens oversaw an active, transformative period for the foundation. His role spanned every facet of the institution, as he served as chief executive, curator, visionary, fundraiser, and entrepreneur. Marc Steglitz, chief operating officer of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is appointed interim director of the foundation.
After over three years of significant restoration work, thanks to Peter B. Lewis, former chairman of the Board of Trustees; the City of New York; the State of New York; and other donors, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum shed its scaffolding to reveal a restored facade and interior improvements. In celebration of the restoration, the foundation commissioned artist Jenny Holzer to create a site-specific light projection for the facade of the Guggenheim entitled For the Guggenheim.
Richard Armstrong is appointed director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. Prior to his appointment, Armstrong was director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, where he had also served as chief curator and curator of contemporary art.