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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, operates the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

1929–30
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.

1930s
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.

1937
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.

1938
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.

1939
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 abstract artists.

1942
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 Mark Rothko.

1943
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 postwar inflation.

1949
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.

1952
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.

1959
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.”

1961
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.

1963
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 Museum.

1976
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.

1985
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.

1988
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 building.

1990
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.

1991
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, among others.

1991–92
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 museum.

1991–92
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.

1992
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.

1993
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.

1997
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.

2000
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 long-term goals.
Philip Rylands is promoted from Deputy Director to Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

2001
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 closes.

2005
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.

2006
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.

2007
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.

2008
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.
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