Helsinki says “no” to building major American museum

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THE City Council has voted  down a plan to build a large-scale Guggenheim Museum of contemporary art at the city’s water front.

The vote — 53 to 32 — divided political parties.

Opponents of the plan said the Guggenheim could put domestic museums in an obscure position. Some saw the museum as a representative of U.S. art business interests. Local media said the low level of private donations also indicated investors did not believe it would be a good project.

Moreover, the American-style corporate culture did not convince local decision makers. Analysts said that the way the U.S.-based Guggenheim Foundation agreed on matters in private before making them public antagonized some Finnish decision makers.

The plan was revised several times, and the latest version proposed a sizable private input in addition to the city funding. But then the claim about an additional private contribution turned out to be false and it would actually be a loan from donors, which increased skepticism.

Earlier, Finland was to meet up to half of the 130- million-euro (138 million U.S. dollar) construction cost, but it pulled out and the plan became a transatlantic city project.

The vote on Wednesday night ended six years of high profile effort by the Guggenheim Foundation and prominent Finnish cultural and capital circles. The clear “no” at the council came as a surprise as the city’s board had endorsed the plan eight to seven.

The Finnish tourist industry had been favoring the plan as a would-be tourist attraction and had pledged contributions in funding.

The high profile architectural design contest was won in 2015 by Moreau Kusunoki Architectes from Paris, France, but the plan failed to gain the appreciation of Helsinki residents. The museum would have been at a central location opposite the Presidential Palace and the Market Square.


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