Having an international presence ??? museums in New York, Venice, Bilbao, Berlin and, in the next few years, Abu Dhabi ??? has long distinguished the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation from the rest of the pack. So has the institution???s high-profile architecture, from Frank Lloyd Wright???s Fifth Avenue spiral to Frank Gehry???s billowing titanium forms in Spain. But recently the Guggenheim has been looking for ways to extend its global reach even further, without bricks and mortar. In June it began a video biennial in collaboration with YouTube that gives virtually anyone in the world with a video camera and a computer a shot at being included in a museum exhibition. And on Friday it will announce a six-year initiative, sponsored by BMW, in which temporary Guggenheim structures designed by architects will travel the world.
Over the next six years, three 5,000-square-foot BMW Guggenheim Labs will travel, in consecutive cycles, to three locations ??? one in the United States, one in Europe and one in Asia ??? spending three months in each place. At every stop, the Guggenheim???s curators will invite leaders in the fields of architecture, art, science, design, technology and education to participate in discussions held in and around the structures about the complexities, realities and problems of urban living. Each lab will have a theme, and at the end of each cycle an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York will present the issues addressed during that lab???s travels.
???It???s all motivated by the same thing, to make what is on the walls here more compelling,??? said Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. He added that he hoped that program would help the Guggenheim attract new audiences, including in New York, and ???engage with architects without collecting more buildings.???
Two assistant curators at the Guggenheim ??? David van der Leer and Maria Nicanor ??? are in charge of the project; they have already selected Atelier Bow-Wow, the Tokyo-based architects, to design the first lab. It will be installed somewhere in the United States (probably New York City, though museum officials would not confirm that) late next summer. Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, a partner at Atelier Bow-Wow, had little to say about the planned structure in a telephone interview, beyond that it will be collapsible and ???will probably be made of some metallic material.???
The theme of the first lab will be ???Confronting Comfort: The City and You.??? ???We did interviews on the street asking people what it is they love most about the city and what they hate most, and the answer was the same: the people,??? Mr. van der Leer said.
BMW has associated itself with name-brand art and architecture for years, commissioning artists including Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons to creating ???Art Cars??? and hiring the London architect Zaha Hadid to design a factory in Germany. Thomas Girst, who is responsible for the company???s cultural communications, said it was making ???a significant contribution??? toward the initiative, although he declined to say exactly how large the investment is.