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A New York icon, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s conical white spiral is probably more famous than the artworks inside, which include works by Kandinsky, Picasso and Pollock. Other key additions, often exhibited in the more recent adjoining tower (1992), include paintings by Monet, Van Gogh and Degas, photographs by Mapplethorpe, and important surrealist works. But temporary exhibitions are the real draw – the best of which are stunning site-specific installations by some of the great visionary artists of today.
Completed in 1959, the inverted ziggurat structure was derided by some critics but hailed by others, who welcomed it as a beloved architectural icon – indeed, since it first opened, this unusual structure has appeared on countless postcards, TV programs and films. The initial collection was bequeathed by Solomon R Guggenheim, a New York mining magnate who – with the help of his art adviser, a German baroness named Hilla Rebay – started collecting abstract art in his later life. The museum has since opened other notable branches in Bilbao, Venice and Abu Dhabi.
The museum’s ascending ramp (known as the Rotunda) is occupied by rotating exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Though Wright intended visitors to go to the top and wind their way down, the cramped single elevator doesn’t allow for this. Exhibitions, therefore, are installed from bottom to top.
There are two good on-site food options: The Wright, at ground level, a space-age eatery serving steamy risotto and classic cocktails, and Cafe 3, on the 3rd floor, which offers sparkling views of Central Park, and excellent coffee and light snacks.