New York Sights to See - Guggenheim Museum
Few museum buildings can justifiably claim to be works of art in their own right. New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art, designed by
famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, is in that sparsely populated class.
Erected between 1956 and 1959, the museum still serves its original purpose - the display of works from the 20th century, primarily painting and sculpture.
The unusual spiral design, chosen by Frank Lloyd Wright, has been
controversial since before the first stone was laid. In part, because
there were no stones to lay. The building is a continuous concrete pour
in the shape of a sand-colored ribbon that winds from bottom to top,
widening as it goes. The net effect is organic, but unlike
any analogy one could draw. It's simply sui generis.
This makes for lack of window light around the exterior, but this is
partly made up for by the large, open cylindrical atrium that runs
through the center. From every angle, this skylight-fed area
illuminates the walls within, though the works are somewhat shadowed by
the continuous walkway ramp that curves around the interior.
Despite Lloyd's original intention, in which a visitor would take an
elevator to the top and walk leisurely down the ramp to view the
displays, most visitors choose instead to walk UP the ramp. Something
about the design makes the effort more than worthwhile.
Along the walls can be found examples of most of the famous names of
the 20th century: Picasso
Even a Lichtenstein
or two. Both sculpture and paintings must compete for flat wall space
as most of the surfaces follow the gentle curve of the building.
As a result of the lack of level floors and flat wall space, complaints
about the difficulty of proper display have been frequent since the
building's birth. Several years ago a partial solution was reached when
a 10-story tower was erected behind the original, once free standing,
building. This conventionally designed tower now holds many of the
paintings with more of the sculpture finding a home in the original
The building itself is actually best viewed, and enjoyed for its own
art form, from across the street on the west side of Fifth
Avenue. From this vantage point, the visitor can
get a variety of views of the architectural crowning point of Wright's
There are not many of Wright's own more typical structures as in this
example, but there are some moderate-sized cantilevers that betray the
work of the master. Not least is the large one several feet above eye
level that runs the length of the site. And inside, standing in the
center of the atrium at the bottom or top, one can clearly see hints of
the equally well-known Johnson
Wax Building completed many years earlier in
Located a few blocks north of the Metropolitan,
the 88th Street location is easily accessible by cab up Fifth Avenue,
or from the Lexington
Avenue subway station at 86th Street. No matter
how you get there, however, and whether you love architecture or art,
no visit to New
York should come to an end without a visit to the Guggenheim Museum.
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