Films on the construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Films on the construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Collection Overview

Repository:
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives.
Creator:
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Title:
Films on the construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Call Number:
A0005
Dates:
1952-1961, 2006
Volume:
3 cubic ft. (36 items)
Historical Abstract:
The films on the construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum were created and collected as documentation of the construction, opening, and early exhibitions of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (SRGM) designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) and located at 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. SRGM opened to the public on October 21, 1959. While SRGM was constructed, FLW designed a temporary structure, the Wright Pavilion located at the corner of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York, NY., which opened and held the exhibition, "Sixty Years of Living Architecture," in 1953. The Pavilion was demolished by mid-1956. The films received preservation in 2005-2006 due to a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. The film "Buildings & Crowds" contains footage of visitors at SRGM in the opening months; the film "Unidentified Early Guggenheim Museum Exhibition" contains footage of a multi-artist permanent collection exhibition that took place shortly after the opening of SRGM. Highlights of the collection include footage of FLW in the "Wright Pavilion Construction" and Richard Leacock's cinematography in "Guggenheim Museum Construction."
Scope and Content Abstract:
Construction and opening films span the range of 1952 – 1961 with documentation from 2006. For each film there is the original film, color internegative or black-and-white duplicate negative, positive answer print, Digital Betacam video master, DVD master, and DVD study copy. Documentation includes original camera reports from Richard Leacock, condition reports, two film stills, and the history of the preservation funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation grant.
Location:
Cold Storage Vault
Language:
Collection is primarily in English.
Arrangement:
Arranged in one chronological sequence.
Restrictions:
The collection is unrestricted.
Publication Rights:
Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Manager of the Library and Archives.
Preferred Citation:
Films on the construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. A0005. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY.
Subjects:
Beth Shalom Synagogue.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Wright Pavilion.
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959.
Contributors:
Leacock, Richard.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Related Materials:
Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence. A0006. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY. Albert E. Thiele records. A0032. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY.
Finding aid prepared by Archives Staff in September 2006.

Historical Note

The films on the construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum were created and collected as documentation of the construction of, opening of, and early exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (SRGM).

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) and located at 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, the SRGM opened to the public on October 21, 1959 after nearly 15 years of planning, building, and tribulations. Although now recognized as an unparallel marvel of modernist architecture, when the SRGM was built its design was widely disputed with some calling it, "ahead of its time," and, "the most beautiful building in America," and others questioning its validity as an art museum. Some went so far as to compare the structure to an old-fashioned washing machine. The film "Building and Crowds" documents the large crowds that gathered at the SRGM in its opening months.

While the SRGM was being planned, FLW designed a temporary structure, the Wright Pavilion, located at the corner of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York, NY. In 1953, the Pavilion housed the then traveling exhibition, "Sixty Years of Living Architecture." The building of the Pavilion is the subject of the film,"Wright Pavilion Construction," which shows FLW overseeing the building process and the exhibition, "Sixty Years of Living Architecture", is theorized to be the subject of the film, "Wright Pavilion Interior (Leacock Models), No. 38." The Pavilion was demolished mid-1956.

Ground was broken on the site of the SRGM on August 16th, 1956. The films "Guggenheim Museum Construction" and "Guggenheim Museum Construction Edited" capture the entire process beginning with the removal of artwork from the townhouse at 1071 5th Avenue where the SRGM was previously located to the construction of the SRGM designed by FLW.

One of the major issues surrounding the realization of FLW's spiral vision was the question of its stability and the designs need to break building codes. In 1958, a doorman for a nearby building commented to the New York Times, "It's a fine building. I know every steel rod of it – watched it from the ground up. First, they put wood around it, then they poured concrete inside, then they took the wood down. The building is solid – hell and damnation won't tear it down." For his part, FLW speculated that building would survive even an atomic bomb saying, "It would just bounce up and down in the blast, like a mighty spring." This process of implementing various materials to build the structure is closely documented in "Guggenheim Museum Construction." Noted documentarian Richard Leacock served as cameraman and, through the use of time lapse technique; he shows the viewers of this short film each intricate layer of materials that went into building.

While the project was plagued by myriad problems relating to the physical structure, following the resignation of Director Hilla Rebay (HVR), who had solicited FLW to create the building, conflict arose between FLW and HVR's replacement, James Johnson Sweeney (JJS). They disputed about several aspects of the plan, with JJS expressing significant concern about how the building could effectively exhibit artworks. The film "Unidentified Early Guggenheim Exhibition" contains footage of a multi-artist permanent collection exhibition that took place shortly after the opening of the SRGM and shows the unique way JJS exhibited artwork within the distinctive space.

The films received preservation and reformatting in 2005-2006 due to a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. Documentation related to the collection includes camera logs from Richard Leacock, two still images from the films, the grant application, film inspection reports, and preservation history.

Bibliography

New York Times. "Sidewalk Views of That Museum," October 12, 1958.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Art of This Century: The Guggenheim Museum and its Collection. New York, NY: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1993
Time Magazine. "Last Monument," November 2, 1959.

Scope and Content Note

Construction and opening films span the range of 1952 – 1961 with documentation on the films dating from 2006. For each film there is the original film, color internegative or black-and-white duplicate negative, positive answer print, Digital Betacam video master, DVD master, and DVD study copy. Documentation includes original camera reports from Richard Leacock, condition reports, two film stills, and the history of the preservation funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation grant.

Folder List

BoxFolderTitleDate
Films
6919271Wright Pavilion Construction [1952]
6919272Wright Pavilion Interior (Leacock Models), No. 38 1953
6919273Guggenheim Museum Construction [1956-1959]
6919274Guggenheim Museum Construction Edited [1956-1959]
6919275Buildings & Crowd, Beth Shalom Synagogue 1959, 1961
6919276Unidentified Early Guggenheim Museum Exhibition [1959-1961]
564 (786289)1-4Documentation (4 folders) 1952, 2006