James Turrell Transforms the Guggenheim

Aten Reign, 2013 / ; Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Foundation, New York

With one of his largest installations to date, American artist James Turrell has transformed the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Guggenheim Museum into a mesmerizing Skyspace. Shifting between natural and artificial light, Aten ReignJames Turrells main attraction – illuminates the central void with a brightly colored, banded pattern that imitates the museum’s famous ramps. This presents a dynamic perceptual experience in which the materiality of light is exposed.

More images after the break. 

“Light is a powerful substance,” Turrell explains. “We have a primal connection to it. But, for something so powerful, situations for its felt presence are fragile [...] I like to work with it so that you feel it physically, so you feel the presence of light inhabiting a space,” he says.“My desire is to set up a situation to which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience.”

Aten Reign, 2013 / James Turrell; Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York
Aten Reign, 2013 / James Turrell; Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York
Aten Reign, 2013 / James Turrell; Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

James Turrell will remain on view at the Guggenheim Museum until September 25, 2013. More information on the exhibition can be found here.

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "James Turrell Transforms the Guggenheim" 26 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=394484>
  • laurent

    should remain like that forever.

  • Colin

    Apologies if this comes across as a bit daft, but I’m unfamiliar with the interior of the Guggenheim, and cannot quite understand this installation. Can someone help me out?

    Is the artist projecting lights on the underside of the museum’s ramps? Or is he suspending rings of white canvas in the atrium space and projecting the lights onto those? I’m just really confused because the museum’s skylight is not visible at the center of the rings and the transitions are so smooth, they look like Photoshop.

    • Karissa Rosenfield

      Hi Colin! If you click on “Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Guggenheim Museum” in the introduction paragraph above you will find more images and information about the building.

  • Desk

    He’s built a whole ceiling just slightly above the ground floor, it has also closed off the skylight – it’s basically covered up the entire ramp system. I wonder if the access to the upper levels have been closed off as well.

  • michael banak


  • richardm

    I just visited at the weekend. Be warned, if you’re looking to experience the building for the first time this is very disappointing as the central space is completely closed off by this installation and there is no art on display on the ramps. In fact there are only a couple of small rooms displaying works from their collection. There is a small exhibition on the Usonian house in the basement which is hidden away. Not much to see for $25.