Guggenheim eyes China

08:52, June 07, 2010      

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Cai Guoqiang's solo exhibition at Guggenheim New York in 2008. (Photo: CFP)
As one of the most prestigious art museums in the world, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York has also found tremendous success in opening branches overseas. Guggenheim's director, Richard Armstrong, spoke in Beijing Tuesday on his first trip to China, indicating that the foundation is scouting for new possibilities.

"China is like a completely new world to me, everything here is so exciting, especially its art," he said. "I hope in the near future there will be further cooperation between Guggenheim and art museums here."

Armstrong added that Guggenheim is looking to expand beyond North America and Europe, eyeing the Middle East, South America and Asia.

Currently with branches in Venice, Bilbao and Berlin and construction underway in Abu Dhabi, all Guggenheim locations are local cultural centers with the structures themselves architectural landmarks.

"The architecture is almost as essential as the works displayed," Armstrong said. "As the two most important factors of a museum, they benefit from each other if both are designed properly."

Staying true to this philosophy, Guggenheim New York triggered wide criticism when it was first unveiled. Designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the gigantic inverted-ziggurat building was considered overshadowing for artworks displayed within it.

Currently under construction and due to open in 2013, the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has been designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Located on Saadiyat Island, the museum will house and display modern and contemporary works from the Guggenheim Founda-tion's large collection, according to Armstrong.

Covering 41,810 square meters, the art museum will be Guggenheim's largest in the world, with programs focusing on Middle Eastern contemporary art high on its agenda.

Also designed by Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao was instantly hailed as the most important structure of its time, according to the museum and has continued to celebrate extraordinary success.

"Bilbao has a population of 1.2 million, but Guggenheim Bilbao welcomes around 1 million visitors each year," Armstrong said, adding that like all Guggenheims, both Bilbao's architecture and exhibitions attract visitors.

"Artists are smarter than ordinary people and they always predict things that would happen in the following decades," Armstrong said, explaining that he was also astonished when he first saw Guggenheim Bilbao 14 years ago.

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