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Arts

Helsinki rejects plan for Guggenheim museum

Opponents likened a Guggenheim museum in Helsinki to a "McDonald's of art." New York, Bilbao and Venice are part of the "chain." But for the Finnish capital, the price tag was too high.

Helsinki's city council nixed a bid for a Guggenheim art museum during a heated debate that ended in the early hours of Thursday morning. The 85-member council voted 53-32 against the museum.

Supporters claimed the new museum would have boosted tourism in Helsinki, as it has in Bilbao. Detractors criticized the chain-like nature of the museum and, most importantly, the hefty costs that it would incur.

"There are no shortcuts to tourism and cultural attractions when the Finnish capital is in question," council member Osku Pajamaki said.

The price of a global brand

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation proposed building the museum in 2011, but the scheme was met with resistance from many Finns who saw it as a waste of money in light of government austerity measures and a recession.

In Finland, "The political climate has changed and the financial situation has changed," the Guggenheim Foundation's deputy director Ari Wiseman told newspaper "Helsingin Sanomat."

The costs of the museum, totaling some 130 million euros (nearly $138 million), would have been divided up between the city of Helsinki and private sponsors. Former Nokia chief executive Jorma Ollila had pledged funds for the project.

Bilbao Guggenheim Museum (imago/Westend61)

The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao can't be overlooked

In addition, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation would have charged some 18.4 million euros over 20 years for the use of its brand name.

Last year, French firm Moreau Kusunoki Architectes won the international design contest with their plans for the museum. The design incorporated somber rectangular pavilions and a lighthouse-like tower. The planned site is currently being used as a parking lot.

The Guggenheim effect

In what has been dubbed "the Guggenheim effect," the Bilbao museum has helped transform the polluted Spanish mining city into a thriving, even cool cultural hub.

Critics, however, use the term to denounce the museum as a symbol of gentrification and cultural imperialism.

kbm/eg (Reuters, AFP, AP)

 

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