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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 13:31 GMT
Las Vegas Guggenheim shuts
Planned Guggenheim Museum
Expansion plans for the New York museum were scrapped
The influential Guggenheim Museum has closed the doors of its Las Vegas art gallery, just 15 months after it opened.

The museum closure is part of a radical cost-cutting exercise which has seen plans for a $950m (600m) plan for a spectacular new Guggenheim art museum in New York scrapped.

The large Las Vegas museum was opened to provide populist exhibitions for casino-loving tourists.

But financial problems have sealed its demise as the Guggenheim Foundation scales down its projects.

The proposed building in New York, which would have looked like a giant twisted metal structure, was to be built in addition to the original Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, which is one of the city's cultural landmarks.

But the Guggenheim Foundation, the city and the state's Economic Development Corporation have all pulled out because the economy makes it "not realistic at this time".

Original Guggenheim Museum in New York
New York's original Guggenheim opened in 1959
The plan was unveiled in 2000, with the building designed by Frank Gehry, who was also behind the Guggenheim's acclaimed gallery in Bilbao, Spain.

The 40 to 45-storey structure would have overlooked the East River in lower Manhattan.

But the Guggenheim Foundation has been under increasing financial pressure, closing its museums in Las Vegas and New York's SoHo, and cutting staff.

Billionaire Guggenheim benefactor and trustee Peter B Lewis recently said the museum relied on a financial plan that "first used yesterday's reserves and then used tomorrow's optimism".

He said: "If Frank Gehry designs a public-service building, I am willing to contribute the last 25%. But there are conditions, namely that no energy is committed to do anything about this now."

The Guggenheim operating budget is reportedly down to $24m (15m) per year - half the level of the late 1990s.

There had also been talk about opening branches in Salzburg, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Edinburgh.

The smaller Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas will remain open.

See also:

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