The Guggenheim Museum is a modern and contemporary art museum in New York City. It is located among the skyscrapers of Manhattan, at 1071 Fifth Avenue, opposite Central Park. The Guggenheim is a white cement building dominated by an impressive spiral-shaped structure. The museum houses around 5,000 works by the most important contemporary artists, including Vassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Joan Mirò. In 1943, industrialist Solomon Robert Guggenheim, an art enthusiast and passionate collector, decided to open his private contemporary art collection to the public. He asked renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design a museum to house it. Wright wanted to design something more than a traditional museum, where one room leads to another in a rather dispersive manner. He wanted to create a modern structure that would provide visitors with more immediate access to the works on display. He designed a six-story building based on a concentric circle, with rooms radiating out around an empty central space. At the top, a glass dome allowed natural light to penetrate and illuminate the entire building.
In his drawings, Wright defined the structure he was designing as a taruggiz, or “ziggurat” spelled backwards. This is because its shape is reminiscent of an upside-down ziggurat, an ancient Mesopotamian temple. Some also view the building as a seashell, or as a coil ready to spring up into the sky. Wright’s bold design perplexed Guggenheim and his collaborators, who had hoped for a more traditional building. Negotiations between the client and the architect lasted 14 years, during which Wright doggedly held his ground. Construction finally began in 1957. The museum was opened to the public on October 21, 1959. Neither Guggenheim nor Wright were there to witness the event. Guggenheim died in 1949 and Wright on April 9, 1959, only a few months before construction was completed. The museum was renovated and expanded between 1990 and 1992. The Tower Gallery, a tower inspired in part by Wright’s original drawings, was added to its original structure. The Guggenheim Museum is considered a masterpiece of contemporary architecture. For the first time ever, a museum itself became a work of art. Over time, other Guggenheim museums have been opened around the world, including the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum designed by architect Frank Gehry.