Funding Fail

Government funding denied to Guggenheim Foundation’s Helsinki museum

Architecture Awards International
“Art in the City” by Moreau Kusunoki Archictectes, the winning proposal for the Guggenheim Helsinki Competition. (Courtesy Moreau Kusunoki Architectes)

Long the subject of international controversy—and even an alternative competition dubbed the Next Helsinki—the Guggenheim’s push to build a new museum in Helsinki has been dealt a major blow.

The saga goes back more than two years when the Guggenheim Foundation solicited international proposals for a new, Kunsthalle-style outpost in Finland’s capital. The museum would be prominently located on the Helsinki waterfront. Under the terms of the foundation’s proposal—which was modified in 2013 after an initial rejection—the government would cover the cost of construction ($147 million for the winning design from Paris-based Moreau Kusunoki Architectes) as well a share of the operating costs. In return, the Guggenheim Foundation would send major exhibitions to the museum, which would also employ Finns and generate tourism revenue.

The foundation’s proposal, which aimed to recreate the “Bilbao Effect,” sparked major debate locally and abroad. Next Helsinki organizer Michael Sorkin wrote that the alternative competition was born of the “outrage at the march of the homogenizing multi-national brand culture emblematized by the imperial Guggenheim franchise—the cultural equivalent of Starbucks…” During 2015, from April to May, the Guggenheim Foundation hosted an exhibition in Helsinki dubbed Guggenheim Helsinki Now: Six Finalist Designs Unveiled to publicize their competition’s finalists; the exhibit was accompanied by “a series of events, talks and workshops designed to engage a range of age groups [and extend] the exhibition content.”

Now, according to Reuters, the Finnish government won’t foot the bill for a museum. Reuters quotes Sampo Terho, parliamentary head of the Finns Party (which is currently part of the Finnish parliament’s governing coalition), as saying “This is the end of the matter, we have ruled out state funding (for Guggenheim) once and for all, for this government.” Reuters reports that the foundation’s reservation on its harbor site runs out at the end of the year and “an extension would need justifications.”

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