Solomon Guggenheim was born into a wealthy mining family, and expanded his fortune through his own mining ventures. He turned primarily to philanthropy after the First World War. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was launched in 1937 “to promote the understanding and appreciation of art, architecture, and other manifestations of visual culture, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, and to collect, conserve, and study the art of our time.” It opened its first museum in 1939, showcasing samples of Guggenheim’s unusual collection. The foundation consistently promoted Solomon’s interest in the current, the abstract, and the unusual, even in its buildings.
Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a larger home for the museum in 1943. New York City’s Guggenheim Museum opened in 1959. A spiraling cylinder, the building is one of the most iconic of modern structures.
The collection continued to grow through the ’50s and ’60s, and during the 1970s Peggy Guggenheim (Solomon’s niece) added her own considerable collection of abstract and Surrealist art. Upon Peggy’s death in 1978, the foundation began to expand to sites around the world—Venice; Bilbao, Spain; and Abu Dhabi have permanent bases, the latter two in flamboyant buildings designed by Frank Gehry. Today, the collective aggregate of what is colloquially known as The Guggenheim represents one of the most formidable assemblages of modern art and architecture in the world.
- The Guggenheim, guggenheim.org