Record-breaking attendance at the museum has been recorded for 2009, the fiftieth-anniversary year of the landmark building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Over 1.3 million visitors came to the museum this past year, enjoying groundbreaking exhibitions such as The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989; Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward; The Sweeney Decade: Acquisitions at the 1959 Inaugural; and the major Kandinsky exhibition.
The numbers for the year were 22 percent greater than projected, and 16 percent higher than 2008, which tallied just over 1 million visitors.
Vasily Kandinsky , “Komposition 8” (Composition 8), July, 1923. Oil on canvas, (140 x 201 cm) 55 1/8 x 79 1/8 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift. 37.262
Kandinsky, a full-scale retrospective of Vasily Kandinsky, was especially popular with visitors, who made it the best-attended show since Frank Gehry: Architect in 2001. In particular, the week after Christmas, from December 27 to January 2, saw 45,150 visitors, the busiest week since the museum began recording attendance figures in 1992.
Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, said the numbers reflect “a tremendous vote of confidence. . . . The story is an almost insatiable appetite for Frank Lloyd Wright and a giant tsunami of interest in Kandinsky. But we have to be honest about the building. It’s a phenomenally attractive icon.”
The 50th Anniversary continues in 2010 with special exhibitions Tino Sehgal, opening January 29, and Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum, which opens February 12.
Kandinsky and Solomon R. Guggenheim
Kandinsky was a central figure in the history and genesis of the Guggenheim Museum, and this landmark exhibition fittingly coincides with the museum’s 50th anniversary year. The museum’s founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim, started acquiring works by Kandinsky in 1929 upon the counsel of Hilla Rebay, who was to become the museum’s first director and who advocated collecting works by Kandinsky in all mediums and from all periods. Guggenheim paid an historic visit to the artist’s studio at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, in 1930, and over the course of his lifetime ultimately purchased more than 150 Kandinsky paintings . Guggenheim soon became the champion of a particular brand of abstraction known as nonobjective art, which had no ties to the empirical world and aspired to spiritual and utopian goals. His enthusiasm eventually led to the opening of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939, the direct precursor of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum . Permanent galleries were devoted to Kandinsky from the museum’s inception, a practice the Guggenheim Museum has revived in recent years. In 1945, shortly after the artist’s death in Paris, Rebay organized a memorial exhibition at the museum and translated some of his influential writings into English.
Vasily Kandinsky (b. 1866, Moscow; d. 1944, Paris) was one of the pioneers of abstraction and great theorists of modernism. He was born in Moscow to an affluent family and initially studied law and economics at the University of Moscow, but at age 30 he left Russia to study painting in Munich. With his companion, artist Gabriele Münter, he traveled throughout Europe, spending time in Amsterdam, Palermo, Rome, Vienna, and other cities, as well as Carthage and Kairouan in Tunisia. In 1906, he and Münter settled briefly in Paris, returning in 1908 to Munich where Kandinsky began a period of intense activity—painting and organizing artistic associations and exhibitions.