Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Rotunda to be Transformed into Turrell Skyspace

  • 23 May 2013
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  • Architecture News Editor's Choice
James Turrell: Rendering for Aten Reign, 2013, Daylight and LED light, Site-specific installation, Solomon R. Museum, © James Turrell, Rendering: Andreas Tjeldflaat, 2012 © SRGF

With his first exhibition in a New York museum since 1980, James Turrell will dramatically transform the sinuous curves of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum into one of the largest Skyspaces he has ever mounted. Opening on summer solstice, June 21, 2013, the temporary installation Aten Reign will give form museum’s central void by creating what Turrell has described as “an architecture of space created with light.”

James Turrell: Rendering for Aten Reign, 2013, Daylight and LED light, Site-specific installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © James Turrell, Rendering: Andreas Tjeldflaat, 2012 © SRGF

As described in the exhibition overview: “In Aten Reign, daylight enters from the museum’s oculus, streaming down to light the deepest layer of a massive assembly suspended from the ceiling of the museum. Using a series of interlocking cones lined with LED fixtures, the installation surrounds this core of daylight with five elliptical rings of shifting, colored light that echo the banded pattern of the museum’s ramps. As is typical of Turrell’s work, the apparatus that creates the effect is mostly hidden from view, encouraging viewers to interpret what they see by means of their own perception. The work promotes a state of meditative contemplation in a communal viewing space, rekindling the museum’s founding identity as a “temple of spirit,” in the words of Hilla Rebay, the Guggenheim’s first director and a pioneer in the promotion of nonobjective art.

James Turrell: Rendering for Aten Reign, 2013, Daylight and LED light, Site-specific installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © James Turrell, Rendering: Andreas Tjeldflaat, 2012 © SRGF

“Aten Reign also relates to Turrell’s Roden Crater Project (1979– ), his magnum opus currently under construction in the desert outside Flagstaff, Arizona. When complete, the modified extinct volcano will house nearly two dozen separate installations, many carefully aligned with astronomical phenomena and all incorporating natural luminance. According to Turrell, the project was informed by the design of ancient observatories, which were oriented to celestial events. The Guggenheim itself echoes ancient architecture—Wright imagined it as an inverted ziggurat—and Aten Reign’s elliptical shape bears similarities to certain spaces at Roden Crater and Agua de Luz (an elliptical, stepped pyramid Turrell built in the Yucatan in 2012). Just as the natural world is an inspirational force for Turrell, so it was for Wright, who was fond of the open landscape of the American West, making his second home in Arizona.”

James Turrell: Rendering for Aten Reign, 2013, Daylight and LED light, Site-specific installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © James Turrell, Rendering: Andreas Tjeldflaat, 2012 © SRGF

Organized in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, James Turrell comprises one of three of major Turrell exhibitions spanning the United States during summer 2013.

James Turrell is curated by Carmen Giménez, Stephen and Nan Swid Curator of Twentieth-Century Art, and Nat Trotman, Associate Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. More information can be found here.

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Rotunda to be Transformed into Turrell Skyspace" 23 May 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=377267>
  • michael banak

    Beautiful. When I visited the Guggenheim Frank Ghery had an exhibition and wrapped the balustrades in shiny mirror Stainless Steel. There was an exhibition of motorcycles.

  • lunar

    so beautiful