The National‘s Katie Boucher explains the new show coming to Abu Dhabi that’s meant to chart the birth of the Guggenheim Museum and guide the establishment of the Emirate’s outpost:
the artistic vision on which the museum is founded, and from which evolved its precursor, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York, is being encapsulated in an exhibition that opens today at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
More than 50 paintings by many of the most important artists of the 20th century have been transported here from the New York museum’s collection for The Guggenheim: The Making of a Museum, the first exhibition to be organised under the auspices of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. A joint venture between the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation and the Tourism Development and Investment Company, it features works by Paul Cézanne, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell.
Its themes are twofold: firstly to chart the journey of Solomon R Guggenheim’s collection from the 1920s, when the American businessman began actively to acquire modern art, to the creation in 1959 of the museum’s eponymous New York home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; and secondly to tell the story of abstract painting in western art from its roots at the end of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. […]
As the father of modern art, Cezanne’s Bend in the Road Through the Forest (1873-75) occupies a wall of its own in gallery one. “We put it by itself because we see it as a metaphor for the beginning,” says Hillings. From Impressionism, it moves to cubism, with works by Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, and on to abstract, often oscillating between the figurative and pure abstract. Three works by Robert Delaunay encapsulate the message of the show, says Hillings. “It’s that moment where artists thought: ‘How are we going to show this building?’ But then, ‘we don’t care if we show this building’.” Delaunay’s Saint-Séverin No 3 (1909-10) reveals soaring cathedral arches layered on top of one another, and in Eiffel Tower With Trees (1910) the then relatively new monument appears through a mass of abstract shapes. On an adjacent wall, his Circular Forms completes the transition. “I wanted you to go through this figurative moment,” says Hillings, “and then turn and you’re in the middle of abstraction.” […]
“Admittedly, the show reads as a show about New York,” says Hillings, “but in our minds it’s about the museum in the 20th century.” A final gallery, dedicated to the Abu Dhabi branch, which features the most up-to-date information on Frank Gehry’s design, links the past and the future. “When the Guggenheim was being built in New York, the city was not the centre of the art world, but really secondary to Paris. What’s interesting now is that we’re in this new world where there isn’t one centre of art, but I see it very much as cultural objects moving across border and time.”
Artwork in Progress (The National)