Guggenheim’s museums around the world (5?) have so far tended to be driven by architecture as much as by (if not more) art. Without a doubt Frank Lloyd Wright’s original and best Guggenheim art gallery in New York is indeed wonderful as architecture and as a tourist trap. Before it became one of those places that people flock to like witless lemmings it also used to be a pretty good place to take shelter from excess heat and rain.
No pics of New York on JHJ’s computer but I have this. The National Museum in Helsinki was and is a piece of proud, excellent and slightly mad architecture for the purposes of housing cultural treasures. And was designed, in its time, by a bunch of young, innovative, fresh-thinking and highly talented Finnish architects. (Note how all these words have done a lot over so many centuries). Kiasma, the beautiful building that houses the best of contemporary art in Finland, is also a stunning piece of architecture. Alas, witless planning and greedy real estate development has meant that its potential has been lost amidst something that we Finns might call a pickled-herring-salad-approach (think that weird stuff we serve at Christmas: rosolli/sillisalaatti) to developing the most valuable and invaluable area of central Helsinki, Töölö Bay and its surroundings.
Predictably enough, Helsingin Sanomat and a few other mainstream sources are keen on the project and, as with the Herzog and de Meuron hotel scheme a year ago, progressed their view point by saying that anyone who resists is either a principled curmudgeon or insane.
So much for efforts to progress constructive debate.
Meanwhile quite a few people have chipped into the conversation with different ways of saying they don’t think this is a good idea. The reasons? The same that we opened with here at JHJ when this was made public, namely that a Guggenheim museum at this stage in this place is a bit has-been or, using another great Finnish idiom, like last winter’s snow – already evaporated. (“Menneen talven lumia” for you Finnish-learners/speakers). There’s work yet before we get clarity on whether the project would be driven by artistic content or by architecture. Getting either of these things to a standard that would genuinely get people to traipse all this way, would demand an AWFUL lot of work and bucket-loads of good luck.
And the blog called hyperallergic, from an international-sounding perspective, has given the idea a brilliantly argued thumbs down. The link reached us courtesy of Arkkivahti who writes with verve about that pickled herring business and whose later posts link to more international thoughts. Making the point that we don’t need to pay millions for a feasibility study when we know that concerted efforts to copy success of the Bilbao effect haven’t travelled well, a Lee Rosenbaum says sensible things.
The image that sprang to mind when I heard of this scheme was the Hard Rock Cafe. It now stands for homogenised, contrived cool, although when I was about 14 I was quite keen on it. There actually weren’t that many around when I was 14. But with each new Cafe the the bränd was cheapened, the world lost something (call it “local colour”).
Commentators of the Helsinki-Guggenheim scheme use an even more apt metaphor (as it were), Starbucks.
Oh how delightful I thought it was when my sister, avid tourist though she is, asked me what Starbucks was!