The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on East 89th and Park in New York was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and opened in 1959. The grandiose central rotunda with its spiral ramp is a major draw and a very special place to view art exhibitions in the city. Collections are also displayed in wings on each floor.
Unbeknownst to me, the rotunda was closed to visitors in preparation for the next exhibition “Take My Breath Away” by Dahn Vo (opening February 9, 2018). Despite this, I had an enjoyable visit immersing myself in the art of Josef Albers (Josef Albers in Mexico) and of the great masters including Picasso, Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet which are part of the permanent Thannhauser Collection.
Josef Albers in Mexico, an exhibition on through February 18, 2018, explores the photographs and paintings inspired by the artist’s travels to Mexico. While Albers is perhaps best known for his Homage to the Square, he was also an avid traveler to the Mexican pyramids of Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Monte Albans. He took photographs in Mexico from the 1930’s to the 1960’s and painted many pieces inspired by the pyramids. In those days, seeing the pyramids was a great adventure. According to the 1965 Pemex travel map, taking a trip to Bonampak from Tuxtla involved a day trek by mule to the ruins. Having visited Teotihuacan myself several years ago, I was struck by how my photographs compared to Albers’….specifically how few tourists there were in his pictures, and how barren the landscape. His journeys even informed the directions printed on the Pemex travel map in 1965. In terms of his paintings, Albers was inspired by both the colors of the Mexican countryside and by the architecture of the pyramids themselves.
After viewing the Albers collection, I continued my visit to the Guggenheim with a tour of the Thannhauser collection. This permanent collection was initially on long-term loan to the Guggenheim until art dealer Justin Thannhauser passed away in the late 1970s. At that point the collection formally came into the museum’s holdings. Among the paintings you will find over 30 works by Picasso and bronze castings of sculptures by Degas which he began working on when his eyesight started failing. Note that the Thannhauser Gallery will be closed March 19–March 23, 2018.
I am eager to visit the Guggenheim again after February 9, 2018 once the rotunda re-opens.