Guggenheim not giving up on Helsinki, despite rejection by City Board
Guggenheim Foundation’s Richard Armstrong still optimistic
Richard Armstrong, the stubborn 63-year-old Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, still hopes to set up a Guggenheim museum in Helsinki, in spite of Wednesday’s vote on the City Board not to push the proposal forward.
“I am surprised and disappointed, and ready to continue the struggle”, Armstrong says.
The Helsinki City Board decided by a vote of 8 to 7 against putting up funding for an architectural contest for the construction of the museum.
“If Mayor Jussi Pajunen wants to wait for the municipal elections in the autumn and try again, it’s all right with me, and I think that our Board is also willing to wait”, Armstrong said in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat in New York.
Pajunen could not say directly if he wants to propose the museum to the next City Council.
“Now it is best to digest the City Board’s decision, and form a view of what to do next. There will be time later to consider other options. There has been no discussion on other options”, Pajunen said.
The Guggenheim Foundation continues to receive feelers from around the world on the construction of museums. This is because the Bilbao Guggenheim proved to be unexpectedly popular.
“We are getting enquiries, but we don’t go out on a date on whim. I don’t want to go to Bergen, or Oslo, or Copenhagen. I want to go to Finland and the Helsinki region where we would have so much to learn!”
Armstrong unexpectedly praises Helsinki leaders and the city’s art connoisseurs.
If Pajunen wants to propose the project to the new City Board after the municipal elections, would Armstrong himself be willing to compromise on some of his own requirements and make the agreement clearly less costly for Helsinki?
“We have to define that in a discussion with the Mayor and our own board.”
Voting for rejecting the Guggenheim project were most of the Green members of the City Board, the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, and the Finns Party. Supporting the project were members of the National Coalition Party, the Swedish People’s Party, and one Green member, Kimmo Helistö.
The Greens felt that the project had been poorly prepared, and that it would have been too costly for Helsinki, with the city carrying all of the risks. “For this reason, most of the group finally went against it”, said Elina Moisio, chair of the Green group on the City Board.
The project was important for the National Coalition Party, and especially important for Mayor Pajunen, who had spent the past two years laying the groundwork.
He says that although he is disappointed with the outcome, he is satisfied with the process, even though the project is on hold for now.
“The study itself has positive value. As a result, we have held a very strong cultural debate, and this is good from the point of view of the city”, Pajunen said.
The National Coalition Party’s City Council group leader Tatu Rauhamäki also regretted that the Greens turned their backs on what he saw as a magnificent cultural project. “It is sad that City Council members who were elected by the people did not get a chance to vote. Guggenheim would have brought jobs and well-being.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Guggenheim decision delayed (15.3.2012)
Undecided City Council members hold balance in Guggenheim decision (28.3.2012)
Helsinki Greens take increasingly critical view of Guggenheim project (27.4.2012)
Helsinki City Board to decide on Guggenheim next week (24.4.2012)