The Guggenheim Museum is THE museum to discover for fans of contemporary and modern art (but not only!).
In my opinion, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is an absolute must during a stay in New York. It is indeed one of the most famous museums in the world, a true icon of the Big Apple!
If you don't know what to do in New York yet, I invite you to add the Guggenheim Museum to your planning! 😉
Even if you're not an art lover, you owe it to yourself to at least pass by this architecturally impressive building.
Therefore, if you feel like taking a little tour inside, I will give you all the information you need for your visit in this article. Don't hesitate to read this little post, it will prove to be very useful 🙂
The history of the GUGGENHEIM Museum
The decision to create the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York was made in 1939 by the foundation of the same name. At first, the museum’s name was supposed to be "The Museum of non-objective painting".
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned by curator Hilla von Rebay to design the building in 1943, but construction did not begin until 1956. The war, the rising cost of building materials, design changes and the death of Solomon R. Guggenheim delayed the project.
The inauguration finally took place on 21 October 1959, six months after the death of the project’s benefactor.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) also died before the work was completed.
An impressive architecture
Although the museum's curator wanted the museum to be "a temple of the mind, a monument", Frank Wright decided to make it an open space and above all a true architectural achievement. The building, designed in a spiral, leads to a well of light, a sort of dome (glass roof). Some see it as a helix, others as a cup or an untied ribbon.
Over the years, the museum has undergone many changes, especially to allow visitors to access the upper floors.
Today, the museum is one of the best places to exhibit unique contemporary works from around the world. In 2008, the museum was designated a “National Historic Landmark” and is now a National Historic Monument. In 2019, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Why visit the GUGGENHEIM Museum?
The Guggenheim Museum is for me one of the best museums in New York. It is the most famous but also the most architecturally intriguing.
Visitors to the Guggenheim Museum can see ever-changing exhibitions. In addition to permanent collections (the Guggenheim Collection, the Thannhauser Collection, and the Kandinsky Collection), the museum also features temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art from the 20th century and today.
Among the current temporary exhibitions, you can admire:
- “Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks”, with over 100 pieces, traces the artist's development from her early Polaroids to her later self-portraits, all of which explore the performative nature of identity (until 13 June 2022);
- Works & Process, a Guggenheim Museum association that supports and organises performance seasons, presents its "Spring 2022" season featuring the official world premieres of works by New York artists (many of whom represent historically marginalised performance art cultures) created during the height of the pandemic. The season, which runs from January to July 2022, includes several shows and exhibitions, each lasting only a few days. Do visit this page if you want to find out more about the different exhibitions on offer and their dates!
- “Around the Circle”: Vasily Kandinsky's paintings, watercolours and woodcuts explore the expressive and spiritual possibilities of colour, line and form (until 5 September 2022);
- In the “Dynamic” exhibition, the artist Jennie C. Jones presents her work, which responds to the architecture of the museum, by interweaving the visual and auditory experience (until 2 May 2022)...
Please check the calendar of temporary exhibitions on the museum's official website.
With your tickets, you will have access to the permanent collection but also to the temporary exhibitions of the moment.
The museum is also a place where you can attend artist talks, performances and film screenings.
Educators even give courses for children, teenagers and adults.
But don't forget to take a look at the architecture of the building, which is very unusual: it is wider at the top than at the bottom. The spectacular rotunda is a work of art in itself! Especially since access to the main hall is free!
How to visit the museum?
The museum is made up of two blocks – a tower and a rotunda – through which you can walk via a ramp. This is the highlight of the museum! And no need to worry: the slope is gentle (3°).
You can either take the ramp and discover the museum on your way up, or opt to go down the rotunda from the top floor. In the second case, go directly to the lift upon entering the museum.
During your walk up or down, you will see the various works presented on the walls of the rotunda as well as in the tower. Note that some of the exhibits are located in small rooms.
You can visit the museum on your own or with a guide.
The museum has a cafeteria, "CAFE 3", where you can buy coffee and various other drinks. From there, you will have a great view of Central Park. There is also a restaurant, "The Wright". Unfortunately, these two are temporarily closed.
Additionally, you can visit the museum's shops (there is one on the ground floor and another on the 5th floor) and buy some souvenirs such as sweaters, sculpture reproductions, paintings, teapots or even scarves.
How to get to the GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM?
The Guggenheim Museum is located along Central Park (east of the park), on 5th Avenue, between the 88th and 89th Streets.
Address: 1071 5th Avenue, New York, NY.
The best way to get there is to take the underground on lines 4, 5, 6, and Q. The nearest underground station is the “86th St (4/5/6)” Station.
You can also get there by bus: take the M1, M2, M3 or M4 on Madison or 5th Avenue.
If you choose to rent a car, you can park along 5th Avenue and its adjacent streets. Other parkings will be available further down the street.
What are the opening hours?
The museum is open daily from Thursday to Monday from 11 am to 6 pm. On Mondays, it remains open until 8 pm for Guggenheim members.
It is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as on January 1, Thanksgiving Day and December 25.
What are the entrance fees?
Before Covid, you could buy your tickets at the museum's ticket office, but also on the internet, notably on the official website of the Guggenheim Museum. Now, tickets can only be purchased online. A word of advice: given the crowds, don't hesitate to take advantage of the “No-queue” tickets.
Below are the admission prices on the official website. Note that you will need to book tickets with predefined times.
$25 / £19
Students and seniors (65+)
$18 / £13.5
Visitors with disabilities
$18 / £13.5
Children under 12
On Saturdays from 5 to 8 pm, you have the "Pay-What-You-Wish Admission". This means that you can pay whatever price you want for your admission ticket, though it is recommended to give £7.5 ($10). In any case, I would advise you to come in advance (at least half an hour) if you wish to enjoy that admission, for it is "first come, first served”!
There are also free guided tours every day at 2 pm and free family tours.
Tips for the visit
You are welcome to stay in the museum as long as you wish (at least until the museum closes, at 6 pm).
Before, you could leave your belongings at the coat check: indeed, backpacks and bags larger than 40x40 cm, double pushchairs and umbrellas are not allowed in the museum. However, this coat check is now temporarily closed, so try to travel light.
You may take photographs (for private use), but tripods are not allowed. Sketches, drawings and notes are possible, but only if you make them with a pencil.
The museum is accessible to people with disabilities (there are even special programmes for the visually impaired: audio guide). There are lifts on all levels of the museum, except for the Upper Gallery. The nearest wheelchair-accessible underground station is “86th Street Station”, served by the Q underground train line. The M1, M2, M3 and M4 buses have wheelchair spaces. Pets accompanying disabled people are allowed in the museum.
There is free wifi in the building: use the network: "Guggenheim Guest". If you do, take the opportunity to download the museum app, which is available in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. It is free and will allow you to learn more about the works on display and the building itself: the app’s name is "The Bloomberg Connects Digital Guide".
With this app, you can take an audio tour and listen to descriptions and explanations of the Guggenheim's exhibitions and Frank Lloyd Wright's building. So don't forget to bring your headphones! 😉
Please note that following the health measures against Covid-19, many changes have been made:
- You must now buy your tickets in advance and they will have a deadline.
- The restaurant and café are temporarily closed. Outside food and drinks are not allowed in the museum, and the drinking fountains are not available. Personal water bottles are allowed.
- Visitor capacity in the museum has been reduced to 25%.
- All visitors over the age of 2 are required to wear a three-layer mask (e.g. three-layer cotton or surgical mask) or an N95 or equivalent mask at all times, even if you are vaccinated
- The coat check is temporarily closed.
- The lifts are available, but their capacity has been reduced to two people or one family at a time.
On another note, other Guggenheim museums have opened around the world: in Venice (Italy), Bilbao (Spain), and Las Vegas (U.S.). And some may open in Mexico, Romania, Finland or Abu Dhabi. Who knows, maybe you will one day have the opportunity to compare all these museums! 😉