The mysteries of the Guggenheim Museum, the Frank Lloyd Wright oddity of the Upper East Side

The Guggenheim Museum turns sixty years old today! Celebrate the history of this iconic museum space, a space-age upside-down ziggurat originally designed to hold only the most unfathomable non-objective art in the world.

The spiral-ramped wonder that is the Guggenheim began as the dream of three colorful characters — a weathy art collector, a severe German artist and her rich patron art-lover.  So how did they convince the most famous architect in the world to sign on to their dream for a modern art “museum temple”?  Come meander with us through the Guggenheim’s quirky history. Co-starring Robert Moses!

Listen here or wherever you find your podcasts:

Life Magazine

Solomon Robert Guggenheim — his love for artwork late in life culminated in one of the world’s most impressive collection of modern art

“Yellow Red and Blue” by Vassily Kandinsky, a particular favorite of Solomon’s who would end up owning over 120 paintings by the abstract artist.

The enigmatic Hilla Rebay, muse and adviser to Solomon and the original curator to what would become the Guggenheim Museum — until she was unceremoniously dumped by the trustees after Solomon’s death

Museum of Modern Art

“Squares”, a work by Rudolf Bauer, whose relationship with Rebay and the Guggenheim would quickly sour

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures Frank Lloyd Wright in his final days, an iconic architect who would go out on top with the construction of the museum

Pictured here, during construction in 1957. The distinctive curves were created by essentially creating a plywood mold and having the concrete sprayed from the inside.

Library of Congress

Opening Day 1959

New York Daily News

Like a typical Wright creation, the museum seems both natural and alien at the same time. Natural light streams in at unusual angles.

Solomon, Hilla and Frank stand admiring a model of their future museum.

CORRECTION: In the podcast I incorrectly state that Wright had already built a house in Staten Island before getting the commission to build the Guggenheim. In fact, he was hired to build the private residence well after receiving the museum job. The home, called The Crimson Beech, is located in Lighthouse Hill. Apparently it leaked.

Flickr/how_long_it_takes (Bill)

TOP IMAGE: A 1960 postcard celebrating the opening of the museum. (Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York)

NOTE: When we recorded this, George W. Bush was still president of the United States, and the Guggenheim was just reopening after a major renovation.  So even this podcast is a bit of history in itself!