January 14, 2014 / 5:23 PM / 5 years ago

Helsinki revives Guggenheim aspirations with design competition

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland has revived plans for a new Guggenheim museum on the Helsinki waterfront, raising chances for the capital to exploit the Guggenheim brand and join the big league of art destinations such as New York and Bilbao.

Helsinki’s city board decided on Monday to let the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation hold an architectural competition for a new museum, although it has yet to overturn an earlier vote against the project.

The city narrowly rejected a plan for a 140-million-euro ($191 million) museum in May 2012 due to worries that much of the expense would be borne by taxpayers at a time of budget cuts and slow economic growth.

Proponents of a new Guggenheim museum in Helsinki are hoping the competition will help bolster popular support for the project, which they say could help city to become a major art destination for tourists.

Government officials on Tuesday gave their endorsement to the project.

“The competition result will visualize what the Guggenheim Helsinki would look like,” Lasse Mannisto, a city board member and member of parliament for the conservative National Coalition party, told Reuters. A decision on whether to go ahead is due to be made as early as spring 2015.

Jan Vapaavuori, Minister of Economic Affairs, also backed the competition.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the original Guggenheim Museum’s snail-shell structure in New York. Frank Gehry’s titanium-clad design for the Guggenheim in Bilbao helped to transform the city into an art and architectural destination in what is called the “Bilbao effect”.

Solomon Guggenheim, who lived from 1861-1949, was a U.S. businessman and art collector.

Helsinki will reserve space near the harbor front market and ferry terminal that is being used as a parking lot for a potential site.

The Guggenheim has said that Helsinki lacks a significant modern art collection, a gap it said the museum could help fill. It has also said it would focus on Nordic and international architecture and design.

Critics say scarce public resources should go instead to existing museums.

($1 = 0.7324 euros)

Additional reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Michael Roddy and Alister Doyle

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