The Opening of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York Documented in Cartoon

Not a week is past Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday, and the architecture and art communities are still celebrating the pioneer architect’s rich career and remarkable works. As part of these celebrations, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York decided to give us a glimpse of the atmosphere that took over the opening of the museum in 1959, by sharing these cartoons from The New Yorker.

Cartoon by Alan Dunn in the November 28, 1959 issue of the New Yorker. Image used by permission of the New Yorker

The Guggenheim Museum is one of New York City’s architectural landmarks and one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most significant works. The design of the museum introduced new means for circulating the multi-storey museum instead of taking the typical stairs. Visitors circulate the gallery to check the displayed art via a spiraling ramp along its cylindrical. The ramp starts at the ground floor and reaches the top which features an iconic ceiling skylight.

Cartoon by Alan Dunn in the November 28, 1959 issue of the New Yorker. Image used by permission of the New Yorker

While we look at Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece in awe and utter admiration now, this was not exactly the case in 1959. For instance, the New York Mirror described the museum as “One of Mr. Wright’s most joyous monstrosities,” but then architect Philip Johnson described it to be “Mr. Wright’s greatest building. New York’s greatest building.” Well, of course, he would.

The New Yorker cartoonist, back then, Alan Dunn did a brilliant job of documenting the opening of the museum with his grayscale yet lively cartoons. They feature quite detailed sketches of different parts of the extraordinary building, as well as some bewildered visitors and their “off-the-cuff” remarks. The cartoons are capable of taking you on a journey to the past and placing you right in the heart of the event.

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