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Guggenheim Helsinki Sinks in a 53-32 Council Vote (with video) UPDATED TWICE

After a prolonged debate, ending in the wee hour of 12:03 a.m. Helsinki time, its City Council voted 53 to 32 to reject the Guggenheim’s proposed Scandinavian outpost.

Screenshot of live feed from today's Helsinki Council debate on the proposed Guggenheim

Screenshot of the live video feed from today’s Helsinki Council debate on the proposed Guggenheim

Applause and cheers ensued.

The meeting had been preceded by a demonstration in Senate Square by “a few dozen anti-Guggenheim protesters,” according to a YLE News report. “Many argued that investments should instead be made in the city’s existing art institutions or in new domestic projects.”

The report added:

The strongest supporters are among councilors from the pro-business National Coalition Party, the largest delegation with 21 seats. The fiercest opposition is among the 11 Left Alliance representatives. The matter may in effect be decided by the second-largest party, the 19-strong Greens, whose members are split on the issue. Most Social Democrats on the council are against it.

My Finnish language skills are nonexistent, but I did understand one councilman’s long recital of the cities where the Guggenheim had proposed new outposts that haven’t been built.

Here’s my blurry video of the crucial moment from the Council’s live feed:

The Helsinki Sanomat today ran side-by-side photos of a rendering of the proposed Guggenheim and of the parking lot that it would replace, labeled: “Yes or Not?”

After three tries and three proposals over five years, I think we now have the final answer. Or does the never-say-die Guggenheim have yet another proposal to present?

UPDATE: This just in from the Guggenheim:

We are disappointed that the Helsinki City Council has decided not to allocate funds for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki museum, in effect bringing this project to a close. Although we regret this outcome, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation will continue to pursue cultural dialogue around the world through our existing network of museums and our international collaborations, curatorial residencies, commissioning programs, shared collections, and much more.

We are immensely proud of our efforts for the Guggenheim Helsinki, including the many relationships we forged at home and abroad and the open international architectural competition we organized—the largest ever conducted—which contributed greatly to the conversation about the role of museums in the 21st century and the future of Helsinki’s waterfront.

We are grateful to the many supporters of the Guggenheim Helsinki project—from the City of Helsinki, which first invited us to conduct a feasibility study in 2010, to industry leaders, fellow arts professionals, and engaged citizens—who advocated for it so strongly. We thank the City Council for having given its full and fair consideration to this project.


In its recap of today’s City Council debate that resulted in today’s rejection of the Guggenheim’s proposed outpost, the City of Helsinki summarized the arguments presented by each side:

Arguments in favor of the project presented by Council members included Helsinki’s increasing international appeal owing to the museum; the project’s positive impact on employment during construction; and an increasing interest in Finnish visual arts and a positive impact on the Finnish visual arts scene internationally.

The main objections to the project presented by Council members included the project’s excessive cost for the Finnish taxpayer; inadequate private funding; and the proposed site, which was considered too valuable for the project.

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