Comparative Criticism of Two Museums

1211 Words Nov 8th, 2012 5 Pages
Mark Moran
Prof. Elizabeth Marlowe
Masterpieces of Western Art
November 8, 1999 Formal Comparison of Two Museums
The Frick Collection and The Guggenheim Museum are both museums on 5th Avenue in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood, and they are both named for famous American tycoons from the early 20thcentury. But their similarities pretty much end there. The Frick Collection is the former residence of steel baron Henry Clay Frick who spent forty years assembling a large collection of artwork for his personal enjoyment. The Guggenheim Museum, on the other hand, was always intended as a public museum to display various art exhibits. These fundamental differences are most evident in the architectural design of the buildings
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The Guggenheim is a giant concrete and glass spiral designed with mathematical curves and no right angles. The surfaces are all completely smooth and there is no decoration or ornamentation inside or out. The bizarre structure conjures up images of alien civilizations and challenges the viewer with its unusual shape. The Guggenheim resembles and upside-down wedding cake, which gives it a much more vertical feeling than the Frick, even though it is also shorter than the surrounding buildings.
There are no living areas inside the Guggenheim, just one huge chamber with a long spiral that visitors are intended to wind down and view all the artwork from. Artwork is primarily installed along the large spiral, although there are also small rooms which come off the spiral ramp. Because visitors take the elevator to the top, they have nowhere to go but to follow the spiral down. This ensures that they see the artwork in a specific order and provides the satisfying feeling that the viewer has seen all there is to see. The Frick, however, has no set order. Even though some modifications were made by architect John Russell Pope in the 1930’s to convert it for public use, the building largely retains the feeling of a house. Just as one would expect of a house, it is a mixture or narrow hallways, living areas, large banquet rooms, and outdoor courtyards which sprawl out in various directions from the entryway. The rooms are
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