Lloyd Wright museum opens in N.Y. today

By United Press International  |  October 21 1959
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NEW YORK (UPI) -- The ultramodern Guggenheim Museum, known to some critical New Yorkers as "Frank Lloyd Wright's Folly," will open its big glass doors to the public on Wednesday, a dozen hectic years after the master architect created it on his drawing board.

Wright died last April at 89, but he had personally superintended all but the finishing touches on the cream-colored, spiraling showcase for modern art on upper Fifth Avenue. It is the final monument to the talent and tenacity of the crusty old man who designed nearly 800 buildings during his career.

The Guggenheim Museum is the only building in New York designed by Wright, who believed "Medieval, outworn" Manhattan was dying and predicted that grass would be growing in its streets by 1975.

The $2,500,000 building will be formally dedicated Wednesday by Arthur S. Flemming, secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. The ceremony will be attended by notables and city fathers, some of whom were originally opposed to the building.

Construction was held up for the better part of a decade by bickering officials who claimed the museum would violate the building code and constitute a firetrap. For years Wright and the Guggenheim board refused to budge, but finally they made a few concessions in order to obtain a building permit.

The exterior has been completed since early last year. But even blasé New Yorkers haven't gotten used to its strange, top-heavy architecture, rather aptly described by one sidewalk superintendent as "inverted potty style."

The building is closely surrounded by turn-of-the-century mansions and apartment buildings and suffers because it lacks space. Wright conceived it as "a little temple in the park," but all he got for his temple was a frontage on Central Park.

However, the interior is everything a museum should be and usually isn't. Paintings will be displayed along one-third of a mile of ramp which rises gently six stories around the windowless interior walls of the cylindrical structure. Elevators all along the ramp provide exits at any level.

A huge cover-all dome of wire-supported glass will funnel a maximum of sunlight into the open center of the cylinder and onto the paintings along the ramp and sculpture exhibits on the main floor. The latest in museum lighting will be used to augment natural light.

The Guggenheim collection, which had been housed for many years in a converted mansion on the site, will be seen for the first time in its entirety. It was begun by the late mining magnate Solomon R. Guggenheim and spans 70 years of modern art with emphasis on non-objective painting.

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