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Sunk in Helsinki: My Finnish Radio Commentary on Rejected Guggenheim Project


What’s my take on the latest in a long series of aborted Global Guggenheims?

Heikki Heiskanen, foreign news correspondent for YLE Uutiset, Finnish Broadcasting Company, yesterday sought my views in a phone intervew. If you understand Finnish (I think I need a crash course), you can listen to the news broadcast (which aired this morning) here. (Guggenheim segment starts at 0.48.) You will occasionally hear my own voice (in my native tongue) interpersed with the Heikki’s running translation.

Heiskanen has provided me with this transcript, which provides a good summary of my views:

The Guggenheim says in its comments to American media that Foundation is still committed to Helsinki museum project. Helsinki City Board rejected the project in yesterday’s vote. A New York journalist who closely watches the developments in the museum sector says that the Guggenheim model seems to be travel with difficulties:

“It’s hard to tell what this project would have become. I only know from following the past histories of many Guggenheim satellites that either never got off the ground or failed that this model doesn’t travel very well,” says Lee Rosenbaum, a New York cultural journalist who closely follows the developments in the museum sector.

“The Helsinki project fits into the long line of trial balloons that were floated and shot down,” Lee Rosenbaum says.

Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong has commented on Helsinki City Board’s vote very cautiously in the U.S. media. In the comments he sent to Lee Rosenbaum, Armstrong said that Guggenheim would have liked to develop the museum idea one step further through an open architecture competition. Armstrong says that the foundation is still committed to the possibility of being in Helsinki.

Lee Rosenbaum see a basic problem in the idea of exporting culture institutions.

“To me it always looked like they were selling what had turned out to be a failed model. New cultural institutions in a community should grow out of the culture of that community,” Rosenbaum says. “This doesn’t mean that one should reject international cooperation but the impetus, management and program should be self-generated.

“Perhaps this will now be an impetus for that to happen. Now that Helsinki has started thinking on a larger scale about what the cultural possibilities could be, maybe something could will come out of it from your own cultural leaders,” Rosenbaum muses. She also hopes that Guggenheim will learn from this blow in Helsinki.

“They keep getting knocked down and get up again and try again,” Lee Rosenbaum says. Rosenbaum thinks that the foundation was genuinely enthuasiastic about creating an experimental 21st-century museum.
“I think they can take some of those ideas and apply them here in New York, and focus on what can be done instead of on these far-fetched and far-flung projects,” Lee Rosenbaum says.

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