Collection on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Collection on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Collection Overview

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Archives Department.
Collection on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Call Number:
1937-2004 (bulk 1937-1954, 1987-1993)
0.75 cubic ft. (1 box)
Historical Abstract:
In 1959, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened to the public. Today, the museum endeavors to promote understanding and appreciation of art through collecting, conserving and studying the art of our time.
Scope and Content Abstract:
The records of the Collection on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum span the years 1937–2004, with many of the materials undated. The collection documents the construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright building and its expansion and restoration in 1992; the case for and acceptance of the museum as a landmark building; and past museum directors, assistant directors, staff, and trustees. Record types include correspondence, newspaper clippings and articles, and photographs. The records in this collection were compiled by the Guggenheim Museum Archives.
Collection is primarily in English.
Arranged alphabetically by subject.
The collection is partially restricted. Contact the Manager of the Library and Archives for more information.
Publication Rights:
Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Manager of the Library and Archives.
Preferred Citation:
Collection on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. A0060. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives. New York, NY.
Architecture -- Museums.
Art Museums.
Guggenheim, Peggy, 1898-1979.
Guggenheim, Solomon R. (Solomon Robert), 1861-1949.
Interior Architecture -- New York (State) -- New York.
Krens, Thomas.
Messer, Thomas.
Morley, Grace L. McCann, 1900-1985.
Public Buildings -- New York (N. Y.)
Rebay, Hilla, 1890-1967.
Thiele, Albert E., 1892-1982.
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959.
Related Materials:
Collection on Frank Lloyd Wright. A0021 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY.
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Hodge in March 2009.

Historical Note

Initially commissioned to paint a portrait of Solomon R. Guggenheim (SRG) in 1927, Hilla Rebay (HR) struck up a friendship with him that endured until his death. Following HR's guidance, the art collection of SRG increased substantially. This partnership led to the birth of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939. Located at 24 East 54th Street in a rented space transformed by HR and architect William Muschenheim, only the purest examples of non-objective art were exhibited. HR commenced a campaign in 1943 to construct a building to serve as home and monument to the art collection accrued by SRG. In 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) accepted the commission to create new accommodations for the growing collection. From 1957 to 1956, the collection temporarily resided in a six story mansion on a plot of land purchased by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (SRGF) between East 88th and East 89th Streets on Fifth Avenue. It was relocated once more to a townhouse on 7 East 72nd Street before the final move to the completed building. Neither FLW nor SRG would live to see the finished museum. Following SRG's death in 1949, the name of the museum was officially changed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (SRGM). In 1952, HR resigned as the director of the museum. She was succeeded by James Johnson Sweeney (JJS), former director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.

October 21, 1959, the construction was completed and the SRGM opened to the public. The following year JJS resigned. The third director, Thomas M. Messer (TMM), was selected in 1961. During his tenure, he increased the exhibition and publishing activities of the museum, as well as continued his predecessor's labors to modernize and professionalize the administrative organization and museum staff. The SRGF received a sizable accretion in 1963 when a portion of Justin K. Thannhauser's collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modern French masterpieces were permanently loaned to the museum.

In response to spatial limitation for exhibitions and staff, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects were commissioned in 1982 to design a solution. They planned to replace the existing small rotunda designed by Wright's son-in-law, William Wesley Peters, with tower that had been a part of FLW's plans for the museum in the 1940s. TMM resigned in 1988 before the expansion project could be finished. His successor, Thomas Krens (TK) continued his mission of expansion and renovation of the museum. While preparations for construction developed, New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission awarded the FLW building landmark status in 1989.

1992 witnessed the reopening of the SRGM after the completion of the expansion and restoration work and the opening of the Guggenheim Soho building, no longer operational. TK endeavored to give the museum an international presence by opening branches in Berlin and Bilbao. From 2005 through 2007, Lisa Dennison (LD) served as the director of the SRGM, while TK continued in the role of director of the SRGF. LD worked toward local recognition of the museum as a New York cultural resource and international development of the museum's goals. TK briefly resumed the director position following LD's departure until his resignation in February 2008. As of 2009, TK works with the SRGF as the Senior Advisor for International Affairs. Richard Armstrong, former Director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, became director of SRGM and SRGF in 2008. In 2013, the Frank Gehry designed Abu Dhabi Guggenheim Museum, developed under the guidance of TK, will open.

Scope and Content Note

The Collection on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum spans the years 1939-2004 and documents the construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright building at 1071 Fifth Avenue; the additions to the building, such as the Aye Simon Reading Room; the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; and the 1992 restoration by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects. Additionally the collection includes documents relating to directors Hilla Rebay, Thomas Messer, Thomas Krens. The collection files are arranged alphabetically in one series, but divided into three groups: Building History, Directors, and Institutional History. A portion of the material in the collection is undated. The records in this collection were compiled by the Guggenheim Museum Archives.

The Building History files span 1953-2001 and include information on the planning and construction of the 1071 Fifth Avenue building, Aye Simon Reading Room, Peter B. Lewis Theater, the Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects 1992 restoration, the Soho museum building, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The document types included in this group are correspondence, pamphlets, photographs, and newspaper clippings. They pertain to the original Frank Lloyd Wright building and Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects expansion and restoration.

The Directors and Assistant Directors group spans 1938-1992 and contains files on Hilla Rebay, Thomas Messer, Thomas Krens, and Grace L. Morley McCann, including correspondence, biographical information, newspaper clippings, and photographs of the directors and works of art.

The Institutional History files span 1936-1998 and include biographies of the Guggenheim family and other key figures, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, who were important to the development of the museum. Additionally the files contain an institutional chronology; exhibitions and publications awards and history from 1936 to 2004; staff information; and information on select trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Folder List

Building History
1071 Fifth Avenue (Frank Lloyd Wright)
7865421Architecture Fact Sheets undated
Aye Simon Reading Room
7865422Correspondence 2001
7865423List of Materials undated, 2001
7865424Notes undated
7865425Publicity undated, 1978
7865426Richard Meier Gift (restricted) 1980
7865427Pamphlets undated
Peter B. Lewis Theater
7865428Fact Sheet undated
7865429Images undated
78654210Technical Packet 2001
78654211Photographs: Interior and Frank Lloyd Wright Rendering of Exterior 1949, 1953
78654212Publicity 1959
78654213An Overview of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum undated
78654214"Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum" (Civil Engineer Student Paper) 1959
Gwathmey-Siegel Restoration (1992)
78654215General undated
78654216Architect Biographies 1992
78654217Fact Sheet undated
78654218Family Activity Guide 1998
78654219Photographs: Exterior and Interior undated, 1992
78654220Publication: "A History of Changes" undated
78654221Publicity undated, 1987, 1991-1992
78654222Renovation and Addition Plans 1985
78654223Research undated
78654224Landmarks Preservation Commission 1989-1990
78654225Photograph: Exterior 1992
78654226Publicity 1992-1993, 1996
Directors and Assistant Directors
Krens, Thomas
78654227Acoustiguide Tour 1992
78654228Biographical Information undated, 1988-1989
78654229Reception Invitations 1989
78654230Newspaper Articles and Clippings 1988-1989
Messer, Thomas
78654231Biographical Information undated, 1978-1979
78654232Calendar of Events of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, November-December 1987 1987
78654233Newspaper and Magazine Clippings undated
78654234Photographs 1979
78654235Morley, Grace L. McCann: Newspaper Clipping undated
Rebay, Hilla
78654236Biographical Information undated, 1979
78654237Correspondence (Archives Copies) 1938, 1940-1941, 1943-1947, 1949-1954
78654238Exhibitions undated, 1949
78654239Guggenheim Financial Issues Concerning Rebay (restricted) 1952
78654240Guggenheim Museum Tribute to First Director undated
78654241Hilla von Rebay Foundation 1974-1975, 1978
78654242Insurance Values (restricted) 1939
78654243List of Works from the Hilla Rebay Collection undated
78654244Newspaper Articles and Clippings 1937-1984
78654245Hilla Rebay 1930s, 1947
78654246Works Owned by Hilla Rebay undated
78654247Publication: "Hilla Rebay: In Search of the Spirit in Art": Photocopy undated
Institutional History
78654248General undated
78654249Biographies: Guggenheim Family and Key Figures undated
78654250Chronology undated
Exhibitions and Publications
78654251Awards 1997-1998
78654252History undated, 1936-1971
78654253Appointments and Departures 1961-1964
78654254Listings 1959-1988
78654255Newspaper Clippings undated, 1964
78654256Salaries (restricted) circa 1960
78654257Arnason, H. Harvard undated
78654258Gross, Mason Welch 1971
78654259Newlin, A. Chauncey 1972
78654260Thiele, Albert E. 1982