Helsinki Nixes Plans for a Guggenheim, Unwilling to Pick Up the Tab for a "Rich, Multinational Foundation"

Helsinki Nixes Plans for a Guggenheim, Unwilling to Pick Up the Tab for a "Rich, Multinational Foundation"
Helsinki, Finland
(Courtesy Sigur D via Flickr)

Looks like Helsinki won't be getting a Guggenheim after all. The city's board has rejected a proposal to build a $185 million branch of the global museum in the Finnish capital, according to Reuters. The project was shot down amid fears that it would be too costly considering the city's economic situation.

When the Guggenheim first proposed constructing a branch in Helsinki last January, it noted that the city had a highly educated population but lacked a significant modern art collection — a gap it could help fill. The Finnish government summarily agreed to pay the Guggenheim $2.5 million to engage in a "feasibility study" for the new museum. The Guggenheim decided to forge ahead after the study was complete, leaving the next vote up to the city council. If the council had approved, the new building would have opened in 2018 at a city-owned site in Helsinki's rapidly developing south harbor.

Last month, a survey published in the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat revealed that a whopping 75 percent of Helsinki's inhabitants were against the project, which would cost more than $19 million in running costs per year on top of the initial investment of $185 million. Helsinki's local cultural scene has been battling arts cuts all year — the city parliament closed eight local museums this year, and sliced three million euros from the budget of the city's antiquities board.

Reacting to the news, Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong told CultureGrrl in a statement, "We would have liked to develop the idea for the museum one step further, through an international open architectural competition, but as we emphasized from the start, our study had no predetermined outcome. All the same, we remain committed to the possibility of being in Helsinki."

Finnish culture minister Paavo Arhinmaki told Reuters he thought it was inappropriate that Finnish taxpayers, clearly in a tight spot themselves, would end up paying the majority of the construction cost. "It is also worth considering whether Finnish taxpayers should finance a rich, multinational foundation in the first place," he wrote on his blog.