The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opens in October 1997 and is instantly hailed as an architectural masterpiece. Gehry’s titanium and steel structure on 32.500 M2 of the riverside with 30% exhibition space becomes the first work of museum architecture to rival the Wright building in its achievement and influence. Guided by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Bilbao museum forms an important collection of postwar American and European painting and sculpture that complements the foundation’s holdings in New York and Venice. The exhibition program includes exhibitions that originate at the New York Guggenheim, as well as at other internationally prominent museums. In only a few years, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is widely credited with reviving the reputation and fortunes of the Basque region.
I spent several months in Bilbao prior to the opening. It was a fascinating period. In the daytime looking at the artists installing their works, meeting the architect Frank Gehry, the artists Richard Serra, Jenny Holzer,Anselm Kiefer,Daniel Buren, Jeff Koons. Julian Schnabel, Eduardo Chilida, Christian Boltanski.
In the evenings we often hung out with Tom Krens & whichever artists were present , going to one of the many good local restaurants.A few days before the official opening a ETA terrorist group disguised as gardeners tried to hide explosives inside the Jeff Koons “Puppy Dog” but were intercepted by police and a shootout resulted in the death of one policeman and one terrorist. The opening ceremony and dinner were attended by King Juan Carlos of Spain; In the largest hall with the Serra installations, dinner for the 200 guests was served. The King and the local dignitaries along with Thomas Krens were seated on an elevated podium for all to see; After dessert, the King takes a leather case out of his jacket and casually lights up a cigar. Obviously no one dared to reprimand him for smoking inside a museum but to top this off, Tom Krens asked the King whether he had another cigar for him and gratefully lights up himself. The frustrated smokers (of which there were many amongst the Spanish guests) the just took out their cigarettes and lit up too.
Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin
November 1997- December 2012
The Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, opens in November 1997. The site in Germany establishes a special connection to the historical roots of the Guggenheim Foundation, inasmuch as the Guggenheim Jewish family originally came from Switzerland and Hilla Rebay, the first director of the Guggenheim Museum, emigrated to New York from what was at that time Prussia. This small museum, designed by Richard Gluckman, was a unique partnership between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank and the brainchild of their respective CEO’s Hilmar Kopper and Thomas Krens.. Along with a robust exhibition schedule, one of the important programs at the Deutsche Guggenheim is the commissioning of new works. The exhibition space hosted three to four important exhibitions each year, many of which showcase a work specially commissioned by an artist. The exhibition program and the day-to-day management of the museum is the joint responsibility of the two partners. Over the 15 years of its exhistence, the museum features exhibitions of many distinguished international artists including William Kentridge, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter, James Rosenquist, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Rachel Whiteread, Bill Viola, Lawrence Weiner, Baselitz and Dan Flavin just to name a few of the 61 exhibitions which made the location on Unter der Linden most popular. Each exhibition was usually opened by the CEO’s of Deutsche Bank and the Director of the Solomon R.Guggenheim Foundation. I attended most of the openings. The original negotiations with Deutsche Bank foresaw that the many commissions which were fully financed by the bank but belonged in equal parts to both the Guggenheim and the bank and every five years we sat down together and decided who gets to keep what.
1998 The Art of the Motorcycle
The Art of the Motorcycle was an exhibition that presented 114 motorcycles from the last 130 years chosen for their historic importance or design excellence[ in a display designed by Frank Gehry in the curved rotunda of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, running for three months in late 1998. The exhibition attracted the largest crowds ever at that museum (4000 visitors per day), and received mixed but positive reviews in the art world, with the exception of some art and social critics who rejected outright the existence of such a show at an institution like the Guggenheim, condemning it for excessive populism, and for being compromised by the financial influence of its sponsors.The unusual move to place motorcycles in the Guggenheim came from director Thomas Krens, himself a motorcycling enthusiast, supported by a novel corporate tie-in with BMW which I had negotiated. The motorcycles were chosen by experts including Krens, physicist and motorcycling historian Charles Falco, Guggenheim advisers Ultan Guilfoyle and Manon Slone, and others. The exhibition was described by historian Jeremy Packer as representing the end of a cycle of demonization and social rejection of motorcyclists, followed by acceptance and reintegration that had begun with the mythologized Hollister riot of 1947 in California and ended with the high-end marketing of motorcycles and the newly fashionable biker image of the 1980s and 1990s. Or at least the show served as “a long-overdue celebration of the sport, the machines and the pioneers they love.” At that time the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club was created with stars like Denis Hopper, Jeremy Irons, Keanu Reeves, Lauren Hutton, Laurence Fishburne. Together with Tom Krens they drove several tours in the USA, Europe & Russia.
The exhibition was later shown at the Guggenheim Las Vegas and in Bilbao.
Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and 3 other museums
Amazons of the Avant-Garde
From July 10 to October 17, 1999, Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin presentend Amazons of the Avant-Garde, an exhibition featuring the work of six Russian women who, in the first quarter of the twentieth century, made significant contributions to the development of modern art: Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Varvara Stepanova, and Nadezhda Udaltsova. The exhibition will feature more than 70 paintings and works on paper, which have been drawn from over 30 public and private collections, including 16 Russian regional museums. Many of these works are being shown for the first time in the West. Organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, the exhibition later traveled to the Royal Academy of Art, London; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York where it was opened by Russian President Putin in September 2000.“The Guggenheim Museum has an illustrious history in collecting and presenting the art of the Russian avant-garde,” said Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. “This exhibition brings together some of the most distinguished masterpieces of the period, and offers a fresh and insightful approach to the subject. We are grateful to Deutsche Bank for its unwavering support of this project, as well as its sponsorship of the exhibition’s international tour.”“Deutsche Bank has had a long involvement with the art and culture of Russia,” said Dr. Rolf-E. Breuer, Chairman of Deutsche Bank. “With this exhibition, we are proud to be able to present the innovative achievements of the Russian avant-garde in a new and exciting light. This is work of the highest order, for it provides not only pleasure but intellectual stimulation.”
While the remarkable aesthetic achievements of the early twentieth-century Russian avant-garde have been well-documented in recent years, one essential component still remains to be recognized: the unprecedented number of women artists actively involved in the movement. Never before in the history of Western art had women played so vital a role in the formation of a radical cultural enterprise, one that redefined traditional aesthetic values and remapped age-old divisions between art and life. The six artists featured in this exhibition all shared what one of them, Olga Rozanova, described as a drive to discover wholly “new bases of artistic creation.” In so doing, each developed an original, independent style that broke new ground in the fine and applied arts.
Structured around surveys of each of the artists’ discrete but related oeuvres, the exhibition will trace the evolution of modern Russian art. The art of the Russian avant-garde flourished from the turn of the century through the mid-1930s and was one of the most vital and prolific chapters in the history of modern art. The range of invention and artistic practices represented by the different movements and schools that emerged under its aegis remains unparalleled today. Russian art of the early twentieth century was informed both by an assimilation of European vanguard ideas such as Dada, Futurism, and Cubism and by indigenous traditions such as folk and primitive art. Moreover, Russian modernism was inherently non-hierarchical, with many artists exploring ideas in painting at the same time they were involved with design for the applied arts, theater, film, fashion, and the graphic arts.
Exter, Goncharova, Popova, Rozanova, Stepanova, and Udaltsova rarely formulated or championed particular social and political ideologies. Just as the Russian avant-garde was a collection of disparate styles and viewpoints, these artists were of different philosophical schools and had different social aspirations and aesthetic convictions. What united them was their support for the idea of cultural renewal and their rejection of what they considered to be outmoded aesthetic canons.
The exhibition is co-curated by John E. Bowlt, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Zelfira Tregulova, independent curator, Moscow; and Matthew Drutt, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
The catalogue is edited by John E. Bowlt and Matthew Drutt and features essays by Natalia Adaskina, Charlotte Douglas, Ekaterina Dyogot, Laura Engelstein, Nina Gurianova, Georgii Kovalenko, Alexander Lavrentiev, Olga Matich, Nicoletta Misler, Vasilii Rakitin, Dmitrii Sarabianov, and Jane Sharp. Fully illustrated, it was available in German, English, Russian and Italian .
1999 Organica at Galerie Gmurzynska Cologne
My friend Alla Povellikhina is the leading specialist on the so called organic artists like Matyushin, Guro, Ender and others She initiated and curated this exhibition in Cologne 23.10.1999-28.1.2000. The illustrated catalogue (277 pages with 189 illustrations)Included texts by John Bowlt, David Burlyuk, Boris Ender, Maria Ender, Zoia Ender, Elena Guro, Nikolai Khardzhiev, Velimir Khlebnikov, Alexei Kostroma, Evgeni Kovtun, Kazimir Malevich, Pavel Mansurov, Mikhail Matyushin, Nicoletta Misler, May Miturich-Khlebnikov, Lev Mochalov, Andrei Nakov, Alla Povelikhina, Wassili Rakitin, Vladimir Sterligov, Isabel Wünsche
A video cassette of the non-objective performance ‘The Birth of Light, Color and Volume’, choreographed by Alexei Kostroma was also produced.
2000 The Solomon R.Guggenheim Foundation signs an alliance agreement with the Hermitage
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation signs an alliance agreement with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, which becomes a trilateral alliance in early 2001 when these institutions are joined by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The objectives of the alliance are to expand international cultural relations; to make each museum’s collections accessible to broader audiences; to pursue collection sharing strategies that complement each institution’s holdings; to implement joint exhibition, publishing, educational, and retail initiatives; and to facilitate each institution’s long-term goals.
On June 20th. 200 the New York Time wrote:
“Dr. Mikhail B. Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage, whose vision has been severely hampered by the lack of funds, described the collaboration as ”One plus one makes three.””We have two brands and can cooperate in different kinds of activities in different parts of the world,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday from St. Petersburg. ”This is not just about fund-raising and development. It’s about creating the model for museums of the 21st century.”Neither Dr. Piotrovsky nor Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim, would discuss what kinds of financial commitments were part of the agreement, if any. But if they accomplish most of what they say they intend to, this would probably be the most extensive collaboration between two world-class museums.”
I was involved in the negotiations and contracts.
2001 Opening of the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas October 7, 2001
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the State Hermitage Museum jointly open the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. This small museum, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is devoted to masterworks from the permanent collections of the allied museums. Simultaneously, a large Frank Gehry-designed Kunsthalle called the Guggenheim Las Vegas opens at the Venetian Hotel Resort in order to provide a venue for the foundation’s popular exhibition The Art of the Motorcycle. The exhibition runs for an unprecedented sixteen months, at which time the Guggenheim Las Vegas closes.The Guggenheim-Hermitage in Las Vegas was a core steel building designed by Rem Koolhas and opened in 2001. During seven years two exhibitions a year were held there. I helped negotiate the contracts with the Hermitage in 2000 and attended all the openings in Las Vegas.The museum, known as the “Jewel Box”, closed on May 11, 2008. It attracted over 1.1 million visitors with ten exhibitions of masterworks by leading artists from the last six centuries, from Van Eyck, Titian and Velázquez, to Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock and Lichtenstein.
In 2001 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the State Hermitage Museum jointly open the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. This small museum, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is devoted to masterworks from the permanent collections of the allied museums. Two exhibitions were arranged per year alongside with an education programme. The Guggenheim-Hermitage Museum closed in 2008.Simultaneously, a large Frank Gehry-designed Kunsthalle called the Guggenheim Las Vegas opens at the Venetian in order to provide a venue for the foundation’s popular exhibition The Art of the Motorcycle. The exhibition runs for an unprecedented sixteen months, at which time the Guggenheim Las Vegas closes.
I helped negotiate the contracts with the Hermitage , attended all the openings in Las Vegas.
2001 Kazimir Malevich: Red Theather Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne November 2001