612: The Guggenheiming goes on (Friday 20 June 2008)

compiled by Madeline Meehan

The proposed new Guggenheim in Vilnius; image held here

Lithuania has officially okayed the building of the newest Guggenheim Museum in the capital city of Vilnius. Construction is to begin soon despite the fact that another Guggenheim is still under construction in the United Arab Emirates (Guggenheim Abu Dhabi) and the director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, Tom Krens, stepped down in February and has yet to be replaced [1]. For the time being at least, and presumably until a replacement is found, he will continue to oversee the Guggenheim’s Projects, including the contstruction of this new museum. The museum, though bearing the Guggenheim name, will actually be a joint Guggenheim and Hermitage satellite (which means, basically, that it will receive funding and display art from both foundations). The Lithuanian government will only have to pay between 10 and 15% of the $117 million (or a little under €76 million) project [2].

It will be built based on plans by Zaha Hadid, who won the design competition held in April. Hadid beat out proposals from many other architects, several of whome are rather famous, making this one of the few Guggenheims built by an architect whose name and style aren’t debatably more popular than the artists whose work their buildings will hold. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi was designed by Frank Gehry and the original Guggenheim in New York was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright [3]. None of which means that Hadid doesn’t already have some very interesting buildings for her resume, but rather that neither she nor her any of her previous projects is a household name to the magnitude of Wright or Gehry. If you’d like to look into it though, the Central Building of the BMW Plant in Leipzig and the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg are both very abstract and quite representative of her deconstructionist style [4].

The proposed new Guggenheim in Vilnius; image held here

This Guggenheim will not be an exception to the pattern of very abstract, some would say strange, buildings; the new building (as seen in the above photos) vageuly resembles a spaceship both internally and externally. Will it be yet another in the string of Guggenheims, with a building that is as famous and more recognizable than the artworks it holds? The Guggenheim Balboa is often cited as a building that overshadows its contents. It has in the past been noted that the flowing wavy interior walls of the building, a necessity to give the exterior its distinctive boat-like organic shape, make it difficult to hang large 2-D exhibitions because the shape of the building is not in keeping with the works [3].

The Guggenheim in Lithuania is planned to open in 2013, a mere two years after the expected completion date of the Guggenheim in the United Arab Emirates. The main inducement to the Lithuanian government to fund this project is the increased tourism it will undoubtedly bring. The museum is expected to draw as many as 400,000 visitors per year, at least half of whom would come from outside Lithuania [2].

[1] - http://time-blog.com/looking_around/2008/06/the_guggenheim_keeps_growing.html?xid=rss-looking [Pictures of proposed building]
[2] - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/12/arts/design/12arts-LITHUANIAAPP_BRF.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
[3] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_R._Guggenheim_Foundation
[4] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaha_Hadid