Solomon R. Guggenheim


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Art collector and museum founder. Also a mining magnate and financier. Noted for its singular architecture and its collection of modern European art, New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opened to the public in its present quarters in 1959. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the unique Fifth Avenue whorl was challenged as an audacious art museum only in 1997 by another Guggenheim-operated facility, Frank Gehry's showcase in Bilbao, Spain. Born in Philadelphia, Solomon Robert Guggenheim worked in family business enterprises until 1919, when he retired. A collector of traditional work, he turned hisattention to modern art in the late 1920s after he met painter and collage artist Baroness Hilla Rebay (1890–1967). He died at his Long Island estate in Sands Point. In 1939 Guggenheim's collection opened to the public as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Despite an eccentric atmosphere maintained by its director, the mystical Rebay, and her sometimes questionable acquisitions, this museum remained important to New York artists for some years as the only venue where first-rate abstract art was continuously on display. Hildegard Anna Augusta Elisabeth Rebay von Ehrenweisen was a native of Strasbourg, raised in Freiburg, and trained in Cologne, Paris, and Munich. She emigrated to the United States in 1927 and became a citizen in 1947. Devoted particularly to Kandinsky's work, she tirelessly promoted completely nonrepresentational art, interpreting this extreme form of abstraction in spiritual terms. In 1952 the museum took its present name, reflecting the widening of the collection's scope to include more varied forms of modernism and the museum's board replaced Rebay with James Johnson Sweeney (1900–1986), a writer and museum administrator known as a spokesman for modern art. Rebay died at her home in Greens Farms, Connecticut. Today the museum offers a broadly representative collection of European and American art from the late nineteenth century to the present. Its holdings include the largest number of Kandinsky works anywhere. The umbrella of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, set up in 1937 supervises not only the original New York museum and the celebrated Bilbao venue but also Peggy Guggenheim's former palazzo in Venice and smaller outposts elsewhere. The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, which awards grants to artists as well as scholars, was established in 1925 by Solomon R. Guggenheim's brother Simon, in memory of his son John.

Subjects: Art.

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