January 10, 2012 / 11:30 AM / 8 years ago

Guggenheim proposes $178 million Helsinki museum

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Guggenheim wants to build a 140 million euro ($178 million) museum on the Helsinki waterfront as part of its growing stable of contemporary art spaces around the world.

Installations, part of the retrospective "Maurizio Cattelan: All" by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, are seen at the Guggenheim Museum in New York November 4,2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which oversees the original Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum in New York as well as sites in Italy, Spain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, has proposed that it and the Finnish capital jointly develop a Helsinki museum. But at least one Finnish official took a skeptical view of the project, citing the project’s cost for taxpayers.

The Guggenheim said it chose Helsinki due to strong local interest and tradition in art and design, as well as the city’s plans to develop its harbor properties, it said in a proposal announced Tuesday.

“We were quite interested and excited by what we saw here - a population that is highly educated, which is very important for the success of the museum and for potential audience development,” Ari Wiseman, the Guggenheim’s deputy director, told Reuters.

Wiseman, along with city officials, presented the proposal at the landmark Finlandia Hall designed by Alvar Aalto, after a year-long feasibility study.

The Guggenheim also noted the city lacked a significant modern art collection, a gap it said the museum could fill and help draw tourists.

It proposed a museum be built on a city-owned site in Helsinki’s south harbor, and recommended the city move forward with an architectural competition.

The museum could open in 2018 after around three years of development, it said, adding that its 140 million euro estimate includes the construction and design of the building. The museum would also need public, private and corporate funding to cover operating costs.

Finnish culture minister Paavo Arhinmaki took a skeptical view on the project’s funding. He assumed Finnish taxpayers would end up paying close to 100 million euros of the construction costs.

“The funding plan has been created with such high hopes that they can’t be fulfilled,” Arhinmaki told Finnish News Agency STT, adding that such a cost would in his view require cuts in the state’s other culture spending.

He said money would need to be found elsewhere in the budget. The Finnish government is currently preparing broad budget cuts.

“It is also worth considering whether Finnish taxpayers should finance a rich, multinational foundation in the first place,” he later wrote in his blog.

The city is due to decide in the next few weeks whether to go ahead with the project.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando, Eero Vassinen and Jussi Rosendahl, editing by Paul Casciato and Bob Tourtellotte

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