Trustees donate $20 million for Guggenheim restoration



NEW YORK, June 10, 2004. Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, announced today that gifts totaling $20 million have been made by its trustees for a capital project to restore and renovate the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Much of the interior of the Frank Lloyd Wright museum was restored in 1992. The exterior of the building, which opened in 1959, now needs restoration. Since built, the exterior has been plagued by cracks, compromising its aesthetic qualities and risking corrosion within its steel reinforcements. This restoration will include the facade and exterior sidewalk; the main rotunda terrazzo floor; and the climate control and security systems. The restoration is expected to take two years, during which time the building will remain open.

The restoration was initiated in 2003, when Chairman Peter B. Lewis pledged to match trustee gifts 3 to 1 for this purpose. "I have always considered this building to be the most important piece of art in our collection," said Mr. Lewis. A trustee since 1993, Mr. Lewis has been Chairman of the Foundation since 1998.

"We are extremely grateful to Peter and our trustees for enabling this critical restoration to proceed," said Mr. Krens. "Peter's commitment to the preservation of this architectural treasure is but another example of his deeply felt commitment to the Guggenheim. His history of support has inspired generosity over the past years by many others, for which we are most grateful."

The following trustees gave a total of $5 million toward the restoration: William Mack, Mark R. Walter, Howard Lutnick, Peter Lawson-Johnston II, Stephen M. Ross, John. S. Wadsworth, Jr., David H. Koch, Denise Saul, Jennifer Stockman, and Mortimer D. A. Sackler, Jr.

The museum has engaged Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, a New York firm best known for its restoration of the Statue of Liberty, to conduct a feasibility study to assess current conditions and prepare a master restoration plan. As part of the larger capital initiative, the Foundation will consider other issues related to the building, such as creating public access to the rotunda roof, with its breathtaking views of Central Park; converting offices on the 9th floor of the Gwathmey Siegel tower annex into a restaurant; and reinforcing the sculpture terrace and Frank Gehry-designed canopy on the fifth floor of the museum's tower. All work will be done in accordance with historic preservation standards after presentation to Community Board 8 and approval by the City's Landmark Preservation Commission and other appropriate agencies. In addition, the foundation will launch a public campaign to increase the endowment for building maintenance, thus providing for the Guggenheim’s long-term financial needs in this area.

Wright, America's preeminent architect, designed the building—his only major commission in New York—from 1943 through 1956. Built under the direction of George N. Cohen from 1956 through 1959 at an estimated cost of $2–3 million, the Guggenheim was, when it opened, as much a marvel of construction as it was of design. The floor slab of the ramp was formed in poured reinforced concrete; the outer wall was made by spraying layers of Gunite (a mixture of sand and cement) from within the building, through steel reinforcement, against plywood forms. The outer surfaces were later painted with an ivory-colored vinyl plastic skin. When the building opened in October 1959, six month's after Wright's death, it created a sensation; more than 16,000 people visited it on the first Sunday after it opened its doors. In the intervening years, it has been acclaimed by architects and critics around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the 20th century.

On August 14, 1990, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the museum as a landmark. It was the youngest building in the history of the city to be honored with such a designation.

June 10, 2004

Anthony Calnek
Telephone: 212-423-3807

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