620 Artworks Designated Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection

Guggenheim Museum Designates 620 Artworks as Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection


Designation Honors Museum Founder’s Gifts and Purchases from 1937 to 1949 and Commemorates 70th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Foundation’s Creation Selections from the Founding Collection on View in the Exhibition Solomon’s Gift: The Founding Collection of the Guggenheim, 1937–1949, April 14–September 30, 2007

(NEW YORK, NY – May 11, 2007) In order to formally honor the legacy of Solomon R. Guggenheim (1861–1949), and in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation on June 25, the Guggenheim Museum has designated approximately 620 key artworks by more than 60 artists as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection. These holdings were gifted or purchased by Solomon between 1937—the year he established the Guggenheim Foundation—and his death, and include some of the museum’s most iconic masterpieces by such artists as Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Albert Gleizes, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Franz Marc, Amedeo Modigliani, László Moholy-Nagy, and Pablo Picasso, among others. To mark the extraordinary depth and breadth of this formative gift, works in the Foundation Collection will be designated on wall labels and in future publications for perpetuity.

“With the Guggenheim Foundation celebrating its 70th anniversary and our landmark building undergoing a major restoration as it approaches its 50th anniversary, it is particularly fitting for us to honor our founder and designate his gift as the Founding Collection of the Guggenheim,” said Lisa Dennison, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. “For a museum, preservation and growth are dual responsibilities. While maintaining the institution’s long-standing commitment to the new, the Guggenheim is also committed to commemorating its own past, for the early history of the Guggenheim intersects with the history of modernism.”

“This designation not only recognizes the contributions of Solomon as a visionary collector, but provides an occasion to reexamine the museum’s historical holdings,” said Wendy L-J. McNeil, Guggenheim Trustee and a great-granddaughter of Solomon. “On behalf of my family, I am thrilled to see Solomon’s foresight honored, and I look forward to seeing the works in the Founding Collection anew from the vantage point of today.”

History of the Founding Collection
In early 1949, shortly before his death, 87-year-old Solomon R. Guggenheim prepared instructions for the trustees of the Guggenheim Foundation. He reflected on the collection he had nurtured for the past 20 years and expressed his devotion to its central focus on non-objective painting, a type of abstract painting that privileged purity of form and spiritual aims: “I have enabled your Foundation to acquire for the benefit of the public the largest and, I believe, the finest collection of non-objective paintings in the world. I have never regretted my intuitive decision to promote this form of art nor has my great faith in it diminished. As its influence has grown on me, I have wished only to enable others to appreciate it.” Years earlier, Solomon—with the guidance of the artist Hilla Rebay, his art advisor and first director of his Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which opened in 1939—had become a champion of non-objective art, and his collection would come to include numerous works by Kandinsky, as well as by Rudolf Bauer, Delaunay, Moholy-Nagy, and Rebay herself. His in-depth holdings also extended to underappreciated artists who explored the myriad derivations of non-objective painting, including Penrod Centurion, John Ferren, Perle Fine, Otto Nebel, Rolph Scarlett, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, and Jean Xceron. At the same time, Solomon actively acquired work that did not fit the mold of non-objectivity, such as paintings by Chagall, Gleizes, Léger, Marc, Modigliani, Picasso, and Henri Rousseau. Rebay described some of these pieces as “Painting with an Object,” or “abstract works of artists whose works led up to non-objectivity.”

Solomon’s Gift: The Founding Collection of the Guggenheim, 1937–1949
April 14–September 30, 2007

Starting this spring, the museum will introduce the Founding Collection to the public with the exhibition Solomon’s Gift: The Founding Collection of the Guggenheim, 1937–1949, which is organized by Tracey Bashkoff, Associate Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. This presentation includes approximately 60 works, including such important canvases as Henri Rousseau’s Artillerymen (ca. 1893–95), Franz Marc’s Yellow Cow (1911), and Marc Chagall’s Paris Through the Window (1913), as well as many by the artists mentioned above. In the museum’s Kandinsky Gallery, a selection of works by Kandinsky, Bauer, and Rebay is shown to explore the complex relationship between their oeuvres and their interwoven roles in shaping Solomon’s early purchases. In addition to featured paintings, a large selection of works on paper, hung salon style, will also be on view, reflecting Solomon’s commitment to non-objective art in various mediums. Many of these works have not been exhibited for decades, some since Rebay showed them in exhibitions organized at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, the forerunner of the Guggenheim Museum. This special exhibition provides the opportunity to rediscover many of the works of art that form the core of the Guggenheim Museum’s holdings.

May 11, 2007

Betsy Ennis
Guggenheim Public Affairs
212 423 3840
E-mail: publicaffairs@guggenheim.org


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