About the Collection

Installation of three sculptures and one painting from the exhibition The Great Upheaval

The metamorphosis from private collection to public museum is an extraordinary transition. For the Guggenheim, this occurred in 1937, when Solomon R. Guggenheim established a foundation empowered to operate a museum that would publicly exhibit and preserve his holdings of nonobjective art. Today the Guggenheim is a museum in multiple locations with access to shared collections, common constituencies, and joint programming. Nevertheless, it is the permanent collection that constitutes the very core of the institution, no matter how far-reaching the foundation’s activities may be.

The story of the Guggenheim Museum is essentially the story of several very different private collections. Central among these are Solomon R. Guggenheim's collection of nonobjective painting premised on a belief in the spiritual dimensions of pure abstraction; his niece Peggy Guggenheim's collection of abstract and Surrealist painting and sculpture; Justin K. Thannhauser's array of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early modern masterpieces; and Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo's vast holdings of European and American Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, Environmental, and Conceptual art. These collections have been augmented over the last two decades by major gifts from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and The Bohen Foundation, as well as by the series of contemporary art commissions that was made possible by the Guggenheim’s unique partnership with Deutsche Bank for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, the distinct but complementary acquisitions program of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Together with numerous other important purchases and gifts secured by the Guggenheim’s directors and curators over the years, these acquisitions have contributed to the formation of a richly layered, international collection dating from the late 19th-century to the present.

Unlike most institutions dedicated to the visual arts, the Guggenheim does not divide itself into departments devoted to specific mediums or eras. Rather, the collection is conceived as an integrated whole that may be continuously enhanced in response to emerging talent as well as a mandate to fill in critical historical gaps.


Installation view: The Great Upheaval, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 4–June 1, 2011. Photo: David Heald © SRGF

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