The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (often referred to as "The Guggenheim") is a well-known museum located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. It is the permanent home to a renowned collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it is one of the twentieth-century's most important architectural landmarks.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the cylindrical museum building, wider at the top than the bottom, was conceived as a "temple of the spirit" and is one of the 20th century's most important architectural landmarks. The building opened on October 21, 1959, replacing rented spaces used by the museum since its founding. Its unique ramp gallery extends from just under the skylight in the ceiling in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building until it reaches the ground level. The building underwent extensive expansion and renovations from 1992 to 1993 (when an adjoining tower was built) and from 2005 to 2008. The museum's collection has grown organically, over eight decades, and is founded upon several important private collections, beginning with Solomon R. Guggenheim's original collection. The collection is shared with the museum's sister museums in Bilbao, Spain, and elsewhere.
Solomon's art collection quickly outgrew its original space, and so in 1943, Rebay and Guggenheim wrote a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright asking him to design a permanent structure for the collection. It took Wright 15 years, 700 sketches, and six sets of working drawings to create the museum. From 1943 to early 1944, Wright produced four different sketches for the initial design. While one of the plans (scheme C) had a hexagonal shape and level floors for the galleries, all the others had circular schemes and used a ramp continuing around the building. He had experimented with the ramp design on the house he completed for his son in 1952, the David & Gladys Wright House in Arizona. At the same time as Wright was developing the design, Rebay was searching for sites for the museum.
On October 21, 1959, ten years after the death of Solomon Guggenheim and six months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Museum first opened its doors to large crowds. The building instantly polarized architecture critics, though today it is widely praised. Some of the criticism focused on the idea that the building overshadows the artworks displayed inside, and that it is difficult to properly hang paintings in the shallow, windowless, concave exhibition niches that surround the central spiral. Prior to its opening, twenty-one artists signed a letter protesting the display of their work in such a space.