Guggenheim Pushes Cheaper Helsinki Museum Plan After 2012 Rebuff

The Guggenheim Foundation presented a less expensive proposal to establish a museum in Helsinki after the city board blocked advances last year.

“I’m more convinced than ever of Helsinki’s unique attraction,” said Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, who presented the revised proposal in the Finnish capital today. “Out of the 15 main candidates over the last year, this is the one that has all the ingredients, including transportation.”

The project seeks to tap into growing tourism in Finland. The number of arrivals of foreign tourists has grown 38 percent since 2000, and the number of Russian visitors has almost tripled in that time. The renewed museum bid includes a 3.8 percent increase in projected visitors to 550,000 people annually, a 4 percent increase in annual revenue projections to 8.1 million euros ($10.9 million) and a 10 percent drop in annual cost estimates to 13.1 million euros.

The foundation reduced its operations fee to 1 million euros from the 2 million euros it had originally asked, pro-rated according to visitor numbers. Construction of the museum would cost 130 million euros, the foundation said. The plan also includes a $30 million fee paid to the foundation for a twenty-year license for use of the Guggenheim name, after which the terms are renegotiable, Armstrong said. He didn’t name the other cities considered.

2012 Rejection

Last year, Helsinki city board voted eight to seven to block Mayor Jussi Pajunen’s proposal for a Guggenheim museum amid resident opposition and fears it would reduce funding for local museums. The New York-based foundation seeks to place the museum in Helsinki’s South Harbor.

The Guggenheim Foundation has museums in New York, Bilbao and Venice. Its art museum in Berlin, a collaboration with Deutsche Bank AG, was closed in February after 15 years of operation. A museum in Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open in 2017, six years behind the original timetable.

With 550,000 visitors, the museum would be Finland’s most popular art venue, also exceeding the attendance figures of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, according to the foundation.

Helsinki first invited the foundation to look into establishing a museum in the city in January 2011, inspired by the success of the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, designed by Frank Gehry. The Basque town has seen a tourism boost since the museum opened in 1997, attracting almost a million visitors a year compared with fewer than 100,000 before the museum opened. The museum in Helsinki would generate an economic impact of 41 million euros, directly creating as many 111 jobs, according to the proposal.

The next step in the bid is a fully-funded international architectural competition planned for early next year, pending city approval, according to Ari Wiseman, deputy director of the foundation.

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