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The Solomon Guggenheim Museum: The Story Of The Founding Family, 'Non-Objective Art' And Guggenheim Museums Around The World

In New York, everyone will show you this museum. Yes, this is not necessary. Moving along Central Park along Fifth Avenue, you will see from a distance the snow-white cup of its main facade, with strictly applied horizontal drawings of the windows. Solomon Guggenheim decided to build it at the age of 82. And he spent the last six years of his life fighting ignorance, inertia and hostility. He passed away without seeing his discovery. Two years later, in Venice, his niece Peggy will present her collection to the audience. But she was 37 years younger than Solomon. The chronicle of their family is an amazing story of how impoverished refugees from Europe in the second generation managed to become one of the richest families in America. And technocrat and industrialist Solomon Guggenheim, already at a relatively old age, was not only able to comprehend the versatility, philosophy and evolution of the development of painting at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, but also to become its active propagandist and founder of the museum. I hope this story can interest you too.

Photo: Shutterstock

For many of you, lovers of museums and travel around the world, it is easy to understand the logic behind Solomon Guggenheim's thinking regarding the location of his museum in New York. Everyone knows Albertopolis in London, the museum quarter in Vienna or Mare in Paris, the museum embankment in Frankfurt or the museum island in Berlin. There is also such a place in New York - the Museum Mile, where ten famous museums have found refuge. It was here that the Guggenheim wanted to place his museum and obtained permission for this from the city authorities. We will not consider the arguments for and against this decision and discuss whether it would not have been better to place it on some well-known area with a large view, or separately on a huge plot in a park area. This is exactly how Wright, the famous museum architect, reasoned, citing a number of arguments against this decision. But the money was paid by Guggenheim - he made the decision.

As an experienced manager, Solomon knew very well that in ancient times the famous Antwerp jewelers also faced a similar question, and their clever Jewish heads made the most suitable decision for business: to create a special “diamond quarter” by placing several dozen jewelry stores side by side, on the same street. Three quarters of a century have passed since then, and the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, as before, in this very place, on the Museum Mile in New York, continues to amaze and delight its guests.

As you know, the first mention of the Guggenheims in the United States dates back to 1847. It was then that this Jewish family emigrated to Philadelphia from the Swiss Lengnau (canton of Argau). How many have you heard about emigration to America from Switzerland, where the majority of the population in those years, not only about anti-Semitism, but in general did not hear about Jews? But this is a special case. The fact is that in the region of Argau, bordering Germany, they still remembered the old decree that the Jews were forbidden to "marry low-income citizens." Simon, the grandfather of Solomon Guggenheim (originally from the Alsatian Guggenheim - hence the surname) had one son - Meyer and five daughters. Each of them was entitled to "a dowry in the amount of at least 500 guilders", and there was no such money in the family. After the death of their mother, he wanted to remarry the widow Rachel Meyer, but she was also poor, and his shop only allowed him to barely make ends meet. It was a dead end, and he and the Rachel family (plus 7 more children) sold all their property and went in search of a better life in the New World.

His son, the founder of the clan, Meyer Guggenheim, was then 19 years old. To feed a huge family, he and his father from morning to night, not knowing holidays and weekends, walked one street after another in Philadelphia, offering residents all kinds of haberdashery trifles. When things got better, they divided spheres of influence. Meyer now had to work in nearby mining villages. It soon became clear that knowledge of the German language was an important advantage there, since the main population came from Holland and perceived it as "their own". Gradually getting used to it, Meyer discovered that among housewives, a cleaner was in special demand for kitchen stoves that were fired with coal. The sale of the bank of this money brought him only a cent, but in a month it ran up to $ 20, and this was already quite good money. But ... for this he had to serve two thousand customers. Then he turned to his client (a German chemist) with a request to determine the composition of the cleaning agent. Then, having adapted the old apparatus for stuffing sausages, he adjusted its release. Having put his father in charge of the machine, he started selling and now earned 8 cents on each can.

But that was only the beginning. As it turns out later, Meyer never stopped there. He decided to invest the money he earned in another novelty - coffee powder. In 1848, coffee in the United States was the drink of the rich, and the Guggenheim decided to play on the miner's vanity: they say, the worse we are. But the question was about the price. And Meyer buys the cheapest coffee beans, grinds them, mixes them with chicory and other flavors. As a result, a rather strong substitute was obtained, the taste of which was quite satisfactory for undemanding miners. By the way, in the Soviet Union they also used a similar method - they launched the production of a cheap coffee drink "Summer". You can easily imagine how popular this drink was a century earlier. By 1852, the cleaning agent and coffee powder trade could provide a decent income. Soon, Meyer married Barbara Myers, whom he met on the ship that brought them to America. She gave him 10 children - 3 girls and 7 boys. They soon moved to the Philadelphia suburb of Green Lane, where Meyer opened a grocery store, which he ran for 20 years.

During the Civil War, Meyer supplied uniforms and food to the northerners, which brought a significant increase to his income. But the children were growing up, he wanted to provide them with a decent education, and this required a sharp increase in income. Then, after analyzing the market situation, he decided to establish the production of lye, a real substitute for soap in those days.

Without thinking twice, he acquired a patent and, quickly establishing production and sales, became a serious competitor in the detergent market. So dangerous that competitors offered to sell them the plant. And he sold it for a decent profit, putting an end to his soap making business. But he did not stop in his gesheft.

With the proceeds, he buys shares in a small section of the unprofitable Kansas railroad, hoping that over time it can be absorbed by the developing network of the Missouri Pacific system. Of course, it was a risk, but ... justified. Having bought 2000 shares for $ 40, he will end up selling them for a $ 300 profit.

And immediately the restless Meyer starts looking for a new field of activity. On the advice of relatives, he finds her in Switzerland, where he urgently sends two sons for training and organizing production and sales. We are talking about the machine-made production of lace production introduced there. Today this business seems to us unpromising. But in the second half of the 100th century, lace was an indispensable element of clothing for women of all ages and classes - from little girls to respectable ladies. It was a XNUMX% success, since they had no competitors in the United States at all.

However, in 1881, the system of constant luck seemed to have crashed. On account of the unpaid debt, Meyer agreed to become one of the owners of two old mines in Colorado. It soon became clear that they were flooded with water and required serious repairs. The funds invested in their launch did not help achieve the desired performance. Partial refunds were also problematic if they were sold. At this moment, unexpected news arrives: a silver-bearing vein and lead deposits have been discovered in the mines.

Stanislav Lets once said: “Chance rules everything. Should I also know who rules the case? " But the one who ruled it clearly felt sympathy for Meyer: he did not allow the mines to be sold ahead of time, made it possible to buy out the remaining part and organize mining, suggested that he should also do the processing of ore himself, and therefore build a smelter.

But that was a completely different level. Silver and lead are not soap or lace. These are strategic materials. There were very few competent specialists in this area. Not to mention real managers. And then Meyer convenes a family council and invites his sons to wind up all their businesses, including lace, and concentrate entirely on mining. Naturally, they were against it: they have an established business and why should they risk it? But Meyer convinces them: haberdashery will not give them the opportunity to spread their wings, and mining will allow them to go international.

Two years later, the US Congress authorized the Treasury to purchase 4 million ounces of silver a month. Its value jumped from 90 cents an ounce to $ 1,25, and the Guggenheim smelter began to bring in $ 60 thousand a month in profit.

In the early 1890s, Meyer sets a new challenge for his sons: their M.Guggenheim's Sons should become the leading mining company not only in America, but throughout the entire American continent. The first step in achieving this goal was to attempt to expand into Mexico. Daniel Guggenheim is leaving for talks with President Porfirio Diaz. And already on December 12, 1890, he signed a cooperation agreement. It was an incredible success: the Guggenheims not only received a concession for two smelters in Monterrey and Agvascalientes, but also "the right to exploit any Mexican deposit that they explore, lease or buy."

And the company begins to conduct exploration of deposits in Mexico, successfully organizes it in Angola, Chile and Malaysia. As a result, by 1895, the smelters in Pueblo, Monterrey and Agvascalientes alone began to bring the Guggenheims more than $ 1 million in net profit annually.

But the higher they climbed, the more powerful their competitors were. And already at the finish line, the almighty Rockefeller trust The American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), which had a capital of $ 65 million, decided to stop them. The Guggenheims were invited to join the trust agreement - to become one of the components of the common company. The father and sons refused. Rockefeller did not forgive such things. As usual, the trust decided to simply crush the Guggenheims. However, they did not yet know who they were dealing with. They were opposed not just by some firm "Guggenheim and Sons", but by six professional Jewish heads. And when a two-month strike broke out unexpectedly at ASARCO factories in 1900, they struck. They managed to convince the owners of the Missouri and Kansas mining companies not to stand idle, but to send their ore to the Guggenheim refineries in Mexico. And they themselves sharply increased their production volumes and flooded the market with cheap silver and lead. As a result, by the end of 1900, the Guggenheims' profits surpassed ASARCO. Despite the fact that the number of Guggenheim mines was four times less than the Rockefeller ones.

ASARCO shares began to fall in price rapidly, and Daniel and Solomon hurriedly began to buy them. The Guggenheims soon had enough stock to call a shareholder meeting. But now the conditions were already dictated by them: all five brothers entered the board of directors. Daniel became president and chairman of the board, Solomon became chief treasurer, Isaac, Murray and Simon became board members. Ultimately, the Guggenheims had the required 51% stake in ASARCO. It was a real victory. It is generally accepted that their share of the global market for the production of silver, lead and copper has approached 80%.

Evil tongues will say that Meyer ran his business tough, not always with "clean hands." But who said that the "kings" are "angels"? And when he passed away in 1905, his sons were already multimillionaires. Each of them had more than $ 10 million, and by the beginning of the 58th century they had already acquired the unofficial title of "kings of the underworld." The life path of Meyer Guggenheim was another illustration of the effectiveness of the slogan "American Dream", in which over XNUMX years of his life in the United States, a poor street seller of dry goods managed to turn into a multimillionaire with the title "king". He was honorably buried by his sons at the Salem Fields Cemetery in Brooklyn.

The children continued their business successfully. And having gone to retirement, they led a lifestyle that corresponded to their title: they organized social events, collected art objects, created numerous funds. It was they who brought the greatest fame to the Guggenheims in the XNUMXth century.

For example, Murray Guggenheim organized a foundation that sponsored medical research and the construction of a major hospital in New York, the Conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens, and the Murray and Leonie Guggenheim Memorial Library.

Daniel Guggenheim and his son Harry (during World War I - an Air Force pilot) in 1926 founded the Aeronautics Development Foundation, which sponsored research in the field of rocketry and space flight, and also provided funds for the creation of the first Guggenheim School of Aeronautics at New -York University. It was they who provided funds for Charles Lindbergh's first flight from New York to Paris and established the Daniel Guggenheim Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in engineering. She enjoys well-deserved recognition throughout the world, and she continues to be awarded annually for the best achievements in technology.

Nevertheless, it was the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation and the museum created on its basis that made their name world famous.

About the Solomon Guggenheim Museum and "non-figurative art"

Solomon was born in 1861, and although he was the fourth son in the family, he always held leading positions in it. Well, how to assess the role of a person who is a commercial director in a family firm? Solomon was always in the places that his father considered most important. When the brothers mastered the "lace" business, his father sent him to Switzerland, where he at the same time studied at the Concordia Institute in Zurich. After returning to America, Solomon is involved in the work of the mining complex. As soon as Daniel has contracts in Mexico, he sets up Compañia de la Gran Fundición Nacional Mexicana there. A few years later, Solomon was already in Alaska, where he founded the Yukon Gold Company as part of the development of the “golden” direction of the family business. And then…

Well that we are with you all the time about work and work. We promised that in this chapter we will only talk about art and about ... love. No, not about what came off the long tongue of his niece Peggy, but about the fact that in 1895 he married Irene Rothschild, who gave him three daughters. Her father, a German immigrant from Württemberg, was the owner of a thriving ready-to-wear business for men and women. Having a pedagogical education, she took up charity in her youth - she opened a nursery and a kindergarten for working Jewish women. Ultimately, Irene took over as director of the New York City Preschool Association and Trustee of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropy. She also took an active part in other organizations in New York.

If we are talking about art, then it should be noted that she understood it well and after marriage, together with her husband, acquired works of old masters, and was aware of the main events taking place in the cultural life of the city and country. So she was a secular lady, and to some extent even business and self-sufficient. It was she, by the way, discussing with her husband the idea of ​​building a future museum, suggested that Frank Lloyd Wright be involved in the development of the project, considering him one of the best architects in the country. As it turned out, she was absolutely right. In 2019, a special commission of UNESCO recognized his work as worthy for inclusion in its lists.

Somehow Irene came up with the idea to order the production of a portrait of Solomon for a contemporary artist. So in 1927, a German artist, Baroness Hilla von Rebay, from a Strasbourg aristocratic family, was invited to the house, who devoted many years to studying painting. She studied in Cologne, Paris, Munich and Berlin, took part in exhibitions with many contemporary artists: Archipenko, Robert Delaunay, Gleizes, Diego Rivera and Otto van Ries. Thanks to Hans Arp in Paris, she met many adherents of the so-called. non-objective art: Kandinsky, Klee, Franz Marc, Chagall and Rudolf Bauer, with whom she was even in love. Everyone wondered how Solomon Guggenheim would look in her portrait? But everything she did was expected. In this quite traditional academic drawing of an elderly gentleman in the chair there was not even a hint of the avant-garde (you can see the portrait here)... Another thing was unexpected. During numerous sessions, she non-stop told him about the triumph of non-objective art, which was then sincerely inspired.

Remember I. Ehrenburg's story about Fadeev's meeting with Picasso, at which the writer told the master that his paintings were incomprehensible to people. And as Picasso asked him: "Tell me, Comrade Fadeev, were you taught to read at school?" And, having received an affirmative answer, he asked again: "Well, well, were you taught to understand painting?" To this, Fadeev had no answer. But Hilla did. In her sessions, she tried in every possible way to enlighten Guggenheim and convince him that non-objective painting is real art. For example, she told him about Malevich's square, that he is something alive, not dead. For example, the "grandmother" in the picture is dead, no matter how realistic she is drawn (she is alive in nature), but his square in the picture is just alive, since he does not exist in nature, and in the picture he was born solely thanks to insight artist. The square (unlike the grandmother) is not a copy of any really existing object, and in this sense it is "the first step of pure creativity in art." Either her messages were so convincing, or the portraitist was very pretty (find her photos on the Internet: she is smiling radiantly everywhere), but she managed to "convert" Guggenheim to a new faith.

Then she will be accused of “slipping into trust” in order to “foist” pictures of her friends and lovers onto the patron of the arts. A strange accusation. After all, in order to "foist on" it does not need to be taught at all, and "getting into the trust" for the implementation of a specific scam does not at all imply continuation of contacts, free consultations and assistance in purchasing works of artists with whom she never had contacts. In 1930, they visited the workshop of Wassily Kandinsky in Dessau (Germany). Solomon will like Dessau himself, and the Bauhaus Higher School with the workshop of painting and fresco, which he headed, and in which he taught the course "Analytical Drawing", and Kandinsky himself.

Charm and attractiveness Hilla von Rebay is perfectly portrayed in this video of her visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Over time, more than a hundred of his paintings will appear in the Guggenheim collection. In the same year, the Guggenheim will begin showing the public a "new collection of paintings" in his apartment in the Plaza Hotel in New York. The Guggenheim purchases continued with works by Rudolf Bauer, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

In 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was founded. This move led to the establishment in 1939 of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting at East 54th Street, in a facility that was formerly used to sell cars.

It opened with the Art of Tomorrow exhibition, and Hilla von Rebay became its director and curator. True, the opening took place without much enthusiasm, since abstractionism in America was then considered a purely European "fad". But the collection continued to grow. And surprisingly, but the main driving force was now not only Hill, but Solomon Guggenheim himself. For him, this became a kind of contribution to the fight against Nazism. Indeed, after Hitler came to power, all avant-garde painting in Germany was proclaimed "degenerate" art. Among the artists of this trend there were many Jews who, as Hitler believed, "... the Lord refused the talent of truly artistic endowment and instead gave them the gift of chatter and deceit." Their works were removed from museums and private collections, destroyed, and the authors themselves were persecuted. Solomon, on the other hand, began buying up their work, sending Hill to Germany on the eve of World War II. With suitcases full of dollars. Guggenheim considered it his duty to save at least what was still possible.

This is how the year 1943 came when the final decision was made about the need to build a large independent museum. And the Guggenheim with Hilla von Rebye goes to meet with Frank Lloyd Wright. By that time, he was no longer young and was a kind of icon of American architecture. During his life, he developed over 1000 projects and built 363 buildings. Starting with the legendary Sullivan, the ideologue of the Chicago School, he was the author of the concept of "organic architecture", played a key role in the architectural movements of the XNUMXth century and influenced three generations of architects around the world.

But having met with the Guggenheim, he did not yet know that he was waiting for work on the most important structure in his life. By that time, there were only two types of museum buildings: the Exhibition Pavilion (most often made in a simple "international style"), or a building in the form of a palace - in the Beaux-arts style, like the Metropolitan Museum. We do not know how their first meeting took place (after that they will meet hundreds of times), but we know that the main position was firmly agreed upon: a museum should be built that has no analogues in the world. As Wright Hill later wrote: “All achievements must be organized in space, and only you can do this. Create for us a temple of spirituality - a temple of the spirit, a monument! "

In August 1945, Wright built a model of the museum and sent a letter to Solomon: “The model is complete. This is a tremendous beauty. This will save us many thousands of dollars in construction costs, as any questionable points in the plans are immediately cleared up by looking at the model. ” It is said that when Hilla saw him and understood how the collection would be arranged, she told Solomon her legendary phrase: "With this you will become famous throughout the world." But the number of paintings increased, and already in 1947 a townhouse at 1071 Fifth Avenue was converted for the museum. In 1952, it was renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

During all this time, prior to the start of construction in 1956, Wright will make about seven hundred sketches and six separate sets of working drawings in connection with the requirements of the public and the comments of various city services. This became especially noticeable after Solomon Guggenheim passed away in 1949, without waiting for the start of construction. What made them all so indignant? The fact that Wright literally turned upside down the generally accepted understanding of museum architecture and the principles of building an exhibition. His museum was a large volume, divided into proportional parts by light niches.

It was supposed to be painted in a bright color, up to red. Getting through the central entrance to the atrium of the first floor, which is 400 meters long, visitors took the elevator to the upper floor and then, going down the ramp floors, examined the exhibits on display. At the same time, the open volumes of the interior made it possible to simultaneously survey several levels at once. The rotunda itself, consisting of 6 floors, was crowned with a glass dome that provided daylight. The Guggenheim Museum became the first architectural site of our time to reproduce the spiral shape on this scale. In the deep Middle Ages, a similar idea of ​​a large atrium was used only when constructing the Bramante stairs in the Vatican.

The inner walls of the rotunda were inclined outward by 97 degrees. Wright wanted the walls to mimic the slope of the easel as the best viewing position. He imagined pictures propped up against the wall instead of hanging them up. Wright also installed skylights in the galleries to naturally illuminate works of art.

Photo: Shutterstock

The circular design was inspired more by nature than typical building shapes. Wright's creation was so ahead of its time that many, even experts, it caused active rejection. Some artists believed that the museum should not have such a powerful artistic impact on the viewer that can overshadow the works of art themselves.

The New York Daily Mirror wrote: "This building should be placed in a museum so that people can then see how crazy the twentieth century was." “No — you're completely wrong,” Wright wrote. “I want to make both the building and the paintings one continuous art object, a kind of symphony in the art world that has not existed until now.” Well, how not to recall here the words of the great architect of the Old World Antonio Gaudi: "The corners will disappear, and matter will generously appear in its astral rounds: the sun will penetrate here from all sides and the image of paradise will appear ... so the palace will become brighter than the light."

Then Wright had a particularly hard time, because the new management of the foundation actually withdrew from the struggle for the museum. William Allin Storrer, in his book The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, wrote: "Overcoming the limitations of New York City building codes took longer than designing or building." You can read about this in the Commission for the Conservation of Landmarks 1990 report: “Due to the unusual nature of the scheme, when these plans were first received by the municipal authorities in 1952, they had objections to 32 building codes. When the number of objections was reduced to about fifteen, the plans were sent to the Standards and Appeals Board (BSA) for any required deviations. After a long period of revision of the project, BSA approved the plans and in 1956 the Department of Housing issued a permit. "

What did they think about for four years? How to close a project? And yet, construction began in 1956. Despite this, the people who should have worried about the opening of the museum rallied against him. Immediately, a group of 21 artists sent a joint letter to the Guggenheim Foundation, in which they expressed their dissatisfaction with the project, since its spiral shape "is not suitable for displaying painting and sculpture." Wright responded to them in the New York Times: "I am familiar enough with the incubus of habits that grips your minds to realize that you all know too little about the nature of maternal art - architecture."

Construction continued over the next several years, and Wright lived nearby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel while the museum was being built. The museum will open to an enthusiastic public on October 21, 1959, just six months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright. And in 1992, a new wing will be added to it, which includes additional exhibition space and two floors of office space (this was also provided by Wright).

One more thing. Hilla could not take part in the struggle for the Wright spiral, or for the purity of the "pointless" collection. Due to intrigues within the family, especially Solomon's niece - Peggy (although she could not imagine anything other than Hilla's familiar appeal to Solomon - "Guggy") after the death of Guggenheim, the family expelled her from the board of directors. Moreover, the works of many of her protégés, including Bauer, were excluded from the show. Baroness von Rebay was not even invited to the opening of the museum she actually created. Unfortunately, she never crossed his threshold (as did the Guggenheim and Wright, who died before the museum opened). The triumph and its transformation into an architectural idol of New York will occur much later. As well as the recognition of the merits of the great triumvirate, who managed to create and give the world another of his miracles.

About family and destiny

There was one more brother in this famous family - Benjamin, who, unfortunately, was not the "underground king". He chose for himself a different fate and a different voyage. Decently, "in a Guggenheim way" completing it. He was born in 1865 in Philadelphia, and at the age of 17 he was enrolled in Columbia College. However, he dropped out after the second year of study. At the urging of his father, he continued his studies at the Pierce School of Business (now Pierce College), at the time one of the most famous business schools in the country. In 1894 he married Floretta Seligman, daughter of James Seligman, senior partner of J. & W. Seligman & Co, originally from Franconia (Germany). They were a very wealthy family, and to get an idea of ​​the philosophy of his lifestyle, it is enough to quote the saying of James Seligman: “Selling what you have to those who need it is not doing business. Selling what you don't have to someone who doesn't need it is real business! "

However, either his family life did not work out, or because of business problems, but more often than not he lived not in their New York house, but in his Parisian apartment. There he had a small company about which very little is known. For example, the fact that she, among other things, supplied accessories for the elevators of the Eiffel Tower. In 1912, returning to New York, he found himself on the Titanic, accompanied by his mistress (French singer Leontine Obart), on that very unfortunate night of April 14.

After a collision with an iceberg, he put her with the maid in a lifeboat and assured that they would see each other soon, since this was only a ship repair. He helped a little more with the loading of the women and realizing that the situation was much more serious and he would not be able to escape, he returned with the valet to the cabin. There, they changed into tuxedos and then sat at a table in the central hall, where they sipped whiskey slowly, watching the disaster. When someone suggested that they try to escape, Guggenheim replied: "We are dressed according to our position and are ready to die like gentlemen." At the same time, he conveyed a message to the steward, who miraculously managed to escape: "If something happens to me, tell my wife in New York that I did everything in my power to do my duty." He has three daughters left. The middle of them - Margarita (Meggie, later "Peggy") was 14 years old.

It is believed that she grew up a lonely, withdrawn and disliked girl. The father was almost always on business trips, and the mother was known as a secular lioness and rarely communicated with her children and husband. She was brought up by nannies, governesses and home teachers. However, later in her interviews, she will say that she adored her parents (of course, a hero father!) And that she retained pleasant memories of her childhood.

The situation changed when she turned 21 and was able to dispose of her inheritance. It was quite a lot of money: from my father, mother and grandfather, a banker. Nevertheless, all her life she considered herself almost a beggar, since she would compare her income only with the money of the Guggenheim brothers. With the same Solomon whom I wildly envied.

Soon she will go to Paris, and get into those "Roaring Twenties". This was not Paris at all, with pogroms, arson, violence in the "colored suburbs", performances of "yellow vests" and coronavirus quarantines. Paris in the 1920s was the center of talented people of art: writers, musicians, artists. Before the rich heiress, of course, the doors of secular salons, where the elite gathered, were wide open. She had many fans from wealthy families, but her choice fell on Laurence Weil - a half-American, half-French, half-writer and half-artist whom she knew from New York. This he will introduce her to the French elite, with all the "iconic" places of the capital and its suburbs.

The marriage lasted 7 years and gave her two children - Sinbad and Peggin. Peggy, of course, wanted to become a famous artist or actress, but she realizes that she has no talent. Therefore, he is looking for another way. It was during this period that she will meet with the American artist Marcel Duchamp, about whom she will retain the best memories: “At that time, I did not understand art at all. Marcel tried to enlighten me. I don't know what I would do without him. First, he explained to me the difference between abstraction and surrealism. Then he introduced me to the artists. Everyone adored him, and I was warmly welcomed everywhere. He drew up an exhibition plan for me and gave me a lot of advice. It was he who opened the doors for me to the world of modernism. " And the place of Laurence in her life will be taken by the Briton John Holmes. She follows him to London, but he drinks too much and ends up dying during a simple operation from anesthesia, which was superimposed on a hefty dose of alcohol in his blood. She is very upset by his departure. But she is saved by art, in which, thanks to John, she has now become perfectly versed.

A friend invites her to create an art gallery. Peggy puts all her pain and passion into this venture. She remembers Marcel's advice: to acquire works of not recognized, but beginning artists. So he begins to buy paintings by abstractionists, surrealists, cubists. She listens to the advice of friends, but her own instinct does not let her down. It soon turns out that Peggy has a rare talent for intuition, which helps her when choosing promising jobs. Thus, the Guggenheim collection begins to replenish with paintings by artists who are destined for recognition in the future. Naturally, paintings purchased for a pittance gradually begin to rise in value, that is, they multiply the fortune of Peggy Guggenheim.

On the other hand, some of the artists owed their recognition to this rich American woman, who was simultaneously engaged in the promotion of their work. Indeed, in return, she organizes their exhibitions, finds wealthy clients who are ready to buy their paintings. It used to be that she was the only connoisseur of the paintings she exhibited, but later they would be worth millions. In 1938 she opens her own gallery in London, where Jean Cocteau, Yves Tanguy, Wassily Kandinsky are exhibited. She meets art historian Herbert Read and discusses with him plans to create an art museum in London. In August 1939, Peggy travels to Paris to discuss the financing of the first exhibition there in banks. The luggage contains an indicative list of paintings and artists that Reed prepared for her for this purpose.

Stop. This is where the story begins, for the sake of which we began our story about Peggy. She arrives in Paris and learns that World War II has broken out. And this seemingly absurd freak ... but this, however, is no longer important. She feels that the war has turned everything upside down, everything is lost, and there will be no return to England. The museum needs to be completed here and now. And she begins to behave like an experienced business woman, not just with a sense of responsibility, but with an amazing flair. He rents a room for a museum in Paris and starts buying paintings from all the artists who were in the list given to her. I even gave myself a task: to buy one painting a day. However, a few days before the Germans arrived in Paris, Peggy was forced to change plans again.

She goes to the Louvre with a request to accept her collection during the Nazi presence. But the professors refuse her. They do not find that these paintings are of any value, and are advised to send them to America as "household belongings". So Peggy, with her unconditional flair, was ahead of her time. After all, many of the works in her collection will soon be called “priceless”. Then she rushes to Portugal, to Estoril, to get from there to America. But getting tickets for a ship to America here was incredible. Open the novel by E. Remarque "A Night in Lisbon", and you will understand everything about the problems that confronted Patty.

And then in 1941 she organized a plane to New York and loaded into it not only her collection, but also a whole group of writers and artists fleeing Nazism. Including the famous sculptor and painter Mark Ernst, who will become her second husband, and Lawrence Weil, the first husband with whom she remained on friendly terms. In 1942, she and Ernst will open the Art of this Century gallery in New York. There will be shown the works taken by her from the Old World. Soon the gallery will turn into an "American outpost of the European avant-garde", becoming a place of mutual enrichment of artists from two continents - the center of the avant-garde. New authors are also exhibited here, starting with Pollock, whom she actually opened to the public. In just four and a half years of the gallery's existence, 53 exhibitions were held, at which the works of 103 authors were presented.

In 1948, thanks to the occasion, she takes part in the Venice Biennale. On the one hand, with her collection, she saves the situation, representing the United States there, which could not exhibit paintings on time. On the other hand, Greece unexpectedly refused its participation in the Biennale due to the outbreak of the civil war, and its pavilion turned out to be free.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Photo: Shutterstock

After the exhibition, the question arose before her: how to live further? Return to America or stay in Europe? But then, as often happened with the Guggenheims, suddenly there is an opportunity to buy the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, which will soon become her home - the present and the last. Its story is extremely simple.

In 1749, the Venieri, a noble Venetian family, commissioned the architect Lorenzo Boschetti to design a five-story palazzo located on the Grand Canal. But various circumstances prevented the construction, and the one-story palazzo remained unfinished. The building passed from hand to hand several times before Peggy Guggenheim made it her permanent residence, and soon an art museum.

She opened his visit to the public in 1951, inviting visitors to see her collection free of charge (3 times a week). Although Peggy has always felt like a poor relative, here she suddenly became the most famous member of the Guggenheim family. In Venice, she lived in her own palace, owned a gondola and took a daily walk along the canals, accompanied by an entourage, dressed in turquoise. This is how she was remembered in the fabulous city.

She herself looked extravagant - her clothes were always original. Peggy loved to wear dresses and accessories in African style: many feathers, unusual hats, massive necklaces. She was undoubtedly one of the most outstanding women of her time, and in 2015 director Lisa Immordino Vreeland made an interesting tape about her. The film told about her life, her amazing intuition, and, of course, about the men whom she “collected” as well as paintings. “During my life, I have collected two collections,” she says from the screen, “paintings and men. Both started with relatively modest pieces and crowned them with masterpieces ... "

On December 23, 1979, she died in the Camposampiero hospital, near Padua. Peggy's ashes are buried in the garden of the Palazzo Venier, next to her 14 dogs. After death, the building was restored and transferred to the management of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation as a Venetian museum. The collection includes 326 works by such masters as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Paul Klee, Salvador Dali and other Masters of the XNUMXth century. And although her grandchildren tried to get some kind of rights to run the museum through the courts, their attempts failed. This is how the Guggenheim Foundation had its first branch, named Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

In 1988, Thomas Krenz, one of the most professional museum managers in the world, became the head of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, who during his 20 years of work managed to create a worldwide museum network and implement such a perfect organizational scheme that the British Tate and the Louvre in Paris adopted it.

His first step in organizing branches and divisions of the museum was the creation in New York Guggenheim Museum Sohowhich opened at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street in Manhattan's Soho district. It was in 1992, and he was remembered for such remarkable exhibitions as Marc Chagall and the Jewish Theater, Paul Klee at the Guggenheim Museum, Robert Rauschenberg - A Retrospective and Andy Warhol - The Last Supper, which served additions to the permanent exhibition of the museum. However, in 2002 the museum ceased to exist, having failed to reduce operating costs with its inflated areas. (With a planned attendance of 250 thousand visitors per year, only the level of 125-200 thousand was reached).

The next step was taken in Bilbao (Spain). The Basque Country, where the construction was conceived, although located away from the main tourist routes, but its Guernica, immortalized by Pablo Picasso, Pamplona with the legendary bullfight praised by Hemingway, Metropolitan Vitoria and the delightful cinematic San Sebastian - no one can leave indifferent.

The situation with Bilbao was quite different. The industrial city at the mouth of the Nervion River had no special attractions. In the 1936th century, it suffered in the Napoleonic wars, and in XNUMX it was brutally bombed by the Francoists. True, in the twentieth century it was put in order, but the city needed outstanding sights for which people would be drawn here.

In the late 1980s, amid a decline in production, the problem of reviving the city's economy by attracting tourists became especially acute, and in search of a solution, the local authorities turned to the Guggenheim Foundation. Those, in turn, were looking for a suitable city for the development of a museum fund in Europe. Thomas Krenz, according to tradition, again invites the country's best architect - Frank Gehry (in fact, Ephraim Goldberg, from a family of Jewish emigrants from Poland). Many of you are familiar with his work Dancing House in Prague, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Pop Culture Museum in Seattle, etc.

He always said to his customers: "I don't understand why people hire an architect and then tell him what to do." Krenz did not specify anything, he simply repeated what Hilla von Rebay had once said to Wright: "You must build a museum that has no analogues in the world." And they came to the municipality of Bilbau, told about their plans, and heard that the city is ready to take all costs on itself. For three and a half years, the museum was erected and in 1997 put into operation under the name Guggenheim Museum Bilbau.

Photo: Shutterstock

The design of the museum and its construction were fully consistent with the style of Frank Gehry. The museum is said to contain no flat surface in its entire structure. The jumble of volumes and lines, shining curved surfaces of titanium, sharp protrusions, meandering roofs and walls, window openings appearing in unexpected places - do not allow you to focus on any detail (as when examining the facade of a baroque structure), but create the general impression of striving into the harbor of a ship, or a mysterious biblical fish covered (like scales) with panels shimmering in the light.

In the design of the building, computer modeling of structures was used, which made it possible to produce elements of such outlines that would have been impossible to accomplish several decades ago. Architect Frank Gehry did not deviate from his favorite style of deconstructivism, in which the building, violating all the academic rules of construction (he knows perfectly well that there are no square tomatoes, rectangular bananas or triangular pears in nature), creates an ultra-modern volumetric and wavy silhouette, as if repeating nature and the curves of the nearby hills and river.

ВThe interior space of the museum is also ambiguous: it consists of ten classic rectangular halls and nine rooms with an unexpected shape of walls, floor and ceiling. Deconstructivism of the interior is successfully used for exhibitions of contemporary art - most of the museum's expositions are sculptural video installations, and the main and only permanent exhibition of the museum is the composition "Matter of Time" by the American sculptor Richard Serra, which occupies the largest exhibition hall. At the entrance, guests are greeted by a huge puppy made of flowers, as if descended from the city's coat of arms. And also Spider Maman, huge tulips and much more. But best of all, turn to the pages of Dan Brown's new novel "Origins" and, before arriving here, read the informative and fascinating story about the adventures of his heroes within the walls of this museum.

This is how the old industrial zone of the city was transformed. But the economic significance of the new museum exceeded all expectations. In the first three years of its work, it attracted 4 million tourists to the city, which brought him about 500 million euros. Thus, the museum paid off in three years of operation and continues to bring a steady income to the city treasury.

Around the same time, in 1997, a branch of the museum in Berlin was opened, under the name - German Guggenheim... In fact, it was a small space on the ground floor of the Deutsche Bank branch on Unter den Linden Boulevard in Berlin, which hosted thematic art exhibitions 4 times a year. This became possible because this particular bank is the owner of the largest corporate collection of works by artists of the early 2013th century. In addition, the German side was supposed to organize an exhibition of works by progressive young German artists once a year in order to identify the best works to replenish the collection of the Guggenheim Museum. However, by XNUMX, this commonwealth ceased to be interesting for both sides.

In 2001 Thomas Krenz makes another attempt to collaborate with foreign museums. This time with the Russian Hermitage. The general exhibition was held under the title “Masterpieces and Collectors”. The Hermitage was represented by paintings from the Shchukin-Morozov collection of post-impressionists, and the Guggenheim - by early modernists from their own funds. Each side exhibited 25 paintings. They were presented on the ground floor of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Why exactly here?

Because Krenz knew what he was doing. It attracted 60 million tourists a year. It was one of America's busiest crossroads, where popular culture developed only on an industrial scale. But "high" culture avoided the city. Now she's here. “By opening museums in Las Vegas, we are bringing art to where it will be,” said Thomas Krenz, chairman of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, at the museum's opening. Hermitage-Guggenheim Museum will successfully operate here until its closure in 2008.

At the same hotel, at the same time, another exhibition was organized under the general name Guggenheim Museum Las Vegas... Although in reality it was an exhibition of a completely different direction. The Art of Motorcycle was a famous exhibition dedicated to the development of two-wheeled motor vehicles. It was first shown in New York in 1993 and stopped here for three years as part of a world tour. The already known architect Frank Gehry was invited as the designer of the exposition.

But the most important meeting with him is yet to come. The fact is that the President of the UAE and the Emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Ibn Zayed al-Nahyan, decided to turn his city into the cultural capital of the country as well (after all, the competition with Dubai is becoming more intense). For this, a bulk island Saadiyat was built near the city, where, in addition to golf courses, prestigious hotels and villas, part of the territory was allocated for concert and exhibition halls, modern galleries, museums and other cultural objects. This complex was to include the UAE National Museum, the Center for Futuristic Performing Arts, the Maritime Museum, as well as branches and representations of the Louvre and the Solomon Guggenheim Museum. At the same time, the "Guggenheim" should become the first serious museum of contemporary art in the Arab world, with a volume of 12 times the size of a museum in New York. What architect could cope with such a task, while solving it even better and more interesting than in Bilbau? Only Frank Gehry himself. In 2009 he turned 80 years old. Nevertheless, he enthusiastically took on this project - "Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum".

According to his idea, the building should resemble Cubist paintings with its futuristic appearance. This is achieved by using elements from decaying volumes and fractured surfaces. Seen from the outside, giant cone shapes appear to decorate incredibly large parallelepipeds, using fragments of national wind towers and Bedouin tents. This unique approach made it possible to combine two completely different cultures, harmoniously combining them together.

The walls of the museum will be built from a variety of stones, with shades that make it possible to highlight different premises. In total, there are four levels of central galleries, and two more stand apart on the sides, and natural light is used to illuminate them. Frank Gehry, inspired by the local Arab architecture of the famous wind towers, says: "The conical shapes are used as the entrance to the museum and then seem to dissolve into the desert landscape ... This will be a place for many, many generations." He knows what he's talking about. Geniuses can foresee a lot.

Almost a century ago, when he was only taking his first steps, a young graphic artist and artist, an apologist for the Russian avant-garde, Alexander Radchenko, dreamed of some infinitely distant time when “no canvases or paints would be needed, and future creativity <...> to embed their creations right into the walls, which without paints, brushes, canvases will burn with extraordinary, yet unknown colors. " Didn't modern designers actually directly embody his dream by placing huge TV screens almost on the entire surface of the wall and making it possible to show on them the image of any "Morning in a Pine Forest", providing it with rustling leaves, the roll of birds and even the smell of forest flowers. And how could his predecessor Frank Wright, arranging a glass dome over the rotunda of his museum, suggest that Maurizio Cattelan would want to hang 128 sculpture installations to it: horses, cows, old carts, doves on ship masts, a ruddy old woman sitting in a refrigerator, a boy on a bicycle, and even Picasso in his beloved vest with bulging piercing black eyes.

And he himself could not have admitted that the huge halls up to 130 m long in Bilbao provided by him could ever be filled with a single installation. But she was found, like 99 wolves, blindly rushing and breaking to death on a glass wall in their path.

Or that the effect of the Arabian wind towers, ornamental in Adu Dhabi, can be excellently used to air conditioning a huge ultra-modern museum complex.

And this becomes another of the achievements of the Guggenheim museums: their architecture not only does not become obsolete, but every year it becomes more and more relevant and in demand.

As von Rebye once said to Solomon Hill prophetically: "With this you will become famous all over the world." And so it happened, since the very name Guggenheim on all continents has now become a kind of brand and symbol of contemporary art, and museum buildings have turned into extraordinary "icons" of XNUMXth century architecture.

So, after finishing your visit to this wonderful New York museum, stop for a moment outside to take a photo of him goodbye. But be sure to find such a perspective so that the name of the founder of the museum, put on the facade of the building, gets into the lens: "Solomon Guggenheim". Now you already know a lot about him and his museum. The visit is over, but life goes on. And God bless you with new meetings and discoveries. After all, there is still somewhere Venice, Bilbao and even distant Abu Dhabi. The Guggenheim museums await you.

This article by ForumDaily author, journalist Leonid Raevsky, is part of the New York Walking Tour cycle.

Read his other materials on ForumDaily

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