press release

With locations in New York, Venice, Bilbao, Berlin, and Las Vegas, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has come to define the concept of the "global museum." The Global Guggenheim: Selections from the Extended Collection brings together works from this far-reaching collection for the first time in the Guggenheim's landmark, Frank Lloyd Wright building. As a broad overview of the foundation's extended holdings, the exhibition highlights the history of the avant-garde from Impressionism and early Modernism through Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Pop, refracted through the vision of the individuals who have shaped the collection. In addition to works from the Guggenheim's international museums, the exhibition incorporates loans from collections with which the museum has developed original collaboration arrangements. The Gianni Mattioli Collection, Milan (on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection); the collection of Robert Rauschenberg; and the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg all contribute to the Guggenheim's rich constellation of resources.

This concept of the "extended collection" is a logical progression from the museum's early history and subsequent development. The permanent collection of the Guggenheim Foundation is essentially a compilation of several exceptional and distinctive private collections that have come together over time—the personal holdings of Solomon R. Guggenheim, his artistic advisor Hilla Rebay, his flamboyant niece Peggy Guggenheim, the eminent gallery owners Justin K. Thannhauser and Karl Nierendorf, and most recently the visionary collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo.

Solomon's tastes, guided by Rebay, tended toward early-20th-century European abstraction by artists such as Robert Delaunay, Vasily Kandinsky, and Fernand Léger. Acquired primarily in the 1920s and 1930s on various trips to galleries and artists' studios in Europe, this collection laid the foundation for Guggenheim's first museum, established in 1939 as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Rebay was appointed director, and in addition to organizing shows at the museum (originally on East 54th Street, in a former automobile showroom), she immediately began implementing a series of traveling exhibitions devoted to Guggenheim's collection. From the beginning, therefore, the Guggenheim has placed great importance on reaching beyond local audiences in order to share its collection with a broader public. Such expansive ambitions soon necessitated a grander gallery space, so in 1943 Rebay launched a campaign to build a "museum-temple" designed by the visionary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the elegant spiral building finally opened to the public in 1959 and has since been hailed as one of the greatest architectural achievements of the 20th century.

Pure abstraction remained the museum's mandate until the purchase of the Karl Nierendorf estate in 1948, which expanded the narrow focus of the original collection to include figurative works by Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, and Oskar Kokoschka, among others. This major acquisition, along with growing frustration regarding the lack of curatorial flexibility under Rebay's purist rubric of "non-objectivity," ushered in a new era led by a new director, James Johnson Sweeney. During his eight-year tenure (1952-60), Sweeney aggressively expanded the collection, bringing in a more eclectic and comprehensive representation of Modern art, including sculpture, which Rebay had rejected for its "corporeality." The acquisition of eleven sculptures by Constantin Brancusi during Sweeney's directorship made the Guggenheim one of the great repositories of the artist's work. Sculptures by Alexander Archipenko, Alexander Calder, and Alberto Giacometti as well as notable Abstract Expressionist paintings by Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock also enriched the collection under Sweeney's directorship.

Thomas Messer succeeded Sweeney in 1961 and continued to enhance the collection by adding critical examples of Modern and contemporary art, including major works by Francis Bacon, Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Klee, Joan Miró, Robert Rauschenberg, Egon Schiele, and David Smith. Perhaps the most pivotal group of artworks to enter the museum under Messer's tenure, however, was the Thannhauser Collection, which expanded the collection's 20th-century chronology to include seminal works from the 1860s through the early 1900s. This suite of 75, early-Modern masterpieces came to the museum in 1963, when the German dealer and collector Justin K. Thannhauser offered his personal collection to the Guggenheim as a permanent loan.

Priceless works by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and many others have been hanging in the Wright building's Thannhauser Galleries (so renamed in 1989) ever since. They were bequeathed to the museum after Thannhauser's death in 1976, and the gift was further augmented by donations from his widow Hilde. The Thannhauser group, usually exhibited as a separate entity from the Modern and contemporary core of the collection, has been integrated into this exhibition, adding spectacular examples of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and School of Paris painting.

Messer's directorship also oversaw the transfer of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection—the works collected by Solomon's niece Peggy and housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice—to the foundation's auspices in 1976. Painting and sculpture from Venice mark critical moments in the evolution of 20th-century art underrepresented in New York, namely Surrealism and early Abstract Expressionism. Max Ernst's The Antipope (1941-42), a grim Surrealist portrayal of the eroding relationship between the artist and Peggy Guggenheim, and Jackson Pollock's Enchanted Forest (1947), an intricate and dynamic web of spontaneously splattered paint, round out New York's sampling of work from these periods. The Gianni Mattioli Collection of early-20th-century Italian art includes many Futurist masterpieces, which fill the Guggenheim's void in this area. Umberto Boccioni's Dynamism of a Cyclist (1913), a vigorous and brilliantly colored study of high-speed motion, merges the mechanics of the human body with the shifting gears, wheels, and bars of a bicycle, capturing the Futurist manifesto of velocity, simultaneity, and progress.

Thomas Krens, director since Messer's retirement in 1988, has continued the legacy of extending the span and depth of the collection. A most notable attainment was the acquisition in the early 1990s of the Panza Collection of Minimal and Conceptual art, which has become the indispensable basis of the Guggenheim's contemporary holdings, represented in this exhibition with works by Carl Andre and Robert Ryman. But Krens has also expanded the breadth of the institution on levels beyond traditional collecting practices by orchestrating broad changes in the foundation's geographic structure. The first such expansion was in New York City in 1992 with the opening of the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, created as a space in which to present the burgeoning developments between contemporary art and technology.

Under Krens's direction, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened to wide acclaim in 1997. Since then, the New York museum has greatly benefited from this stunning architectural arena in which to bring its collection and special exhibitions to new European audiences. In turn, monumental paintings from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao dramatically enrich the extended collection's scope. Yves Klein's La Grande Anthropométrie bleue (ANT 105) (ca. 1960) and Robert Rauschenberg's Barge (1963), a joint purchase between the New York and Bilbao museums, exemplify Bilbao's commitment to postwar art on a grand scale. Also in 1997, Krens initiated a collaboration with Deutsche Bank, which led to the opening of the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. This new location added another venue for select touring exhibitions and—more uniquely—for commissions by contemporary artists such as James Rosenquist, a section of whose massive and technicolor Swimmer in the Econo-mist series is included in this exhibition.

Loans to The Global Guggenheim of important canvases by André Derain, Henri Matisse, and Picasso from the Hermitage's preeminent holdings of early-Modern French painting mark the recent partnership formed between the Guggenheim and this renowned Russian collection. The Hermitage is particularly celebrated for its scores of masterpieces by Matisse, represented here by Spanish Still Life (1910)—one of over 35 works purchased from the artist by the great Russian collector Sergei Shchukin and later donated to the Hermitage. The Guggenheim-Hermitage Museum and Guggenheim Las Vegas, currently under construction, will bring both institutions' collections as well as select Guggenheim special exhibitions to a still wider audience.

The core of any museum is its permanent collection. And by forging worldwide alliances, the Guggenheim has redefined the parameters of acquisition and ownership previously inscribed in the concept of the museum collection. The Global Guggenheim is not only the first comprehensive presentation of the Guggenheim's pre- and postwar holdings since 1992, but also it marks the museum's leadership in innovative collection-sharing strategies that have proven imperative to continued collection growth at the highest levels of aesthetic quality and historical importance. In addition to expanding the permanent collection, this approach has generated a cutting-edge program of special exhibitions, breathing new life into the contemporary concept of the museum by putting fashion, design, multimedia, and non-Western art into dialogue with key works in the traditional Modernist canon. As one institution spanning several countries, the Guggenheim is uniquely positioned to mount a collection exhibition that celebrates the contributions of an international avant-garde.

—Bridget Alsdorf Collections Curatorial Assistant

The Global Guggenheim
Selections from the Extended Collection
Kurator: Carmen Gimenez

Künstler: Camille Pissarro, Édouard Manet, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Giorgio De Chirico, Pablo Picasso, Yves Klein , James Rosenquist, Henri Matisse, Umberto Boccioni, Anselm Kiefer, André Derain, Carl Andre, Robert Ryman, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Fernand Léger