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Guggenheim Helsinki Concept and Development Study Underway

The Guggenheim has released a project update, the first to be issued since the project was announced in January 2011.

What is a Concept and Development Study?
“It’s an opportunity to ask very open-ended questions about what a museum might be in the 21st century, starting from a clean slate,” explains Ari Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. According to Wiseman, the study team is asking how an institution developed with as few preconceptions as possible might respond in new ways to artists and audiences, and how the particular strengths of Helsinki, Finland and the Nordic region might be combined with those of the Guggenheim network of museums to contribute something new to the world of culture.

Although the Guggenheim has conducted studies in the past, this undertaking differs in three ways. First, it begins from a series of questions about mission, vision and programs, rather than from an architectural identity. Second, it considers these questions from the unique vantage point of Helsinki, Finland. Third, it represents a global opportunity that is specific to this moment of the 21st century. The Guggenheim has been moving more and more toward a multidisciplinary, transnational curatorial approach, when the possibilities are significant for creating something pioneering in terms of a museum’s exhibitions, events, audience engagement, physical setting, and technological support.

In the past three months, the study has examined the project context. The team is now moving on to investigate what an art and exhibition program might be. Following this, the team will look at market research and economic projections, governance issues and building requirements. The final phase, to be accomplished by the end of the year, will entail drafting recommendations.

Who Is Involved?
During the initial phase of the study, teams in New York and Helsinki have been meeting with professionals in the areas of program, curatorial, education, legal, finance, operations and marketing. They are engaging in conversations with leading artists, museum directors and curators, academics, government officials, business executives, gallerists, and collectors in Finland and beyond. “We are interested in bringing together as many different opinions and perspectives as possible, to reflect both the specifics of the local culture and the future of museums,” says Wiseman.

Meetings have been held with the leaders of a number of institutions in Finland and the Nordic regions. These have included Cable Factory, Design Museum, Finlandia Hall, the Finnish National Gallery, Korjaamo Culture Factory, Museum of Finnish Architecture and Taidehalli, Helsinki; Espoo Museum of Modern Art; Tampere Art Museum and Sara Hidén Art Museum, Tampere; Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Additional meetings will take place with these and additional institutions over the coming months.

The Guggenheim Foundation’s team includes Juan Ignacio Vidarte, Deputy Director and Chief Officer for Global Strategies of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Ari Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Hannah Byers, Associate Director of Exhibition Management; Christina Karahalios, Project Manager; and Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator. In Finland, Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, Director of the Helsinki Art Museum, and members of the Helsinki Art Museum’s staff have participated in the study.

In addition, the New York-based strategic marketing, advertising and design firm LaPlaca Cohen has been asked to help guide the study. In March, LaPlaca Cohen conducted a day-long think tank, which comprised a series of presentations and discussions around key trends in the museum world. Topics included what a 21st century museum could look like, what opportunities and challenges might be involved in operating a new museum in Helsinki and how to define roles for a new museum nationally, regionally, globally, and within the larger Guggenheim Foundation network.

Think tank participants included prominent artists, designers, curators, museum directors, technology researchers, marketing professionals and architecture scholars from Finland, the Nordic region and North America.

Image: Helsinki Harbour, Comma Image Oy

The study is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2011. Check throughout the year for project updates

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