Almanac: Guggenheim Museum turns 53

The Guggenheim Museum in New York was designed by Wright. The museum opened on October 21, 1959 after Wright died. He worked for 12 years on seven designs of the museum.

(CBS News) And now a page from our Sunday Morning Almanac: October 21st, 1959 ... 53 years ago today ... a head-spinning day for art lovers.

For that was the day the Guggenheim Museum opened in New York City.

Designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim is a curvaceous disruption of Manhattan's rectilinear street grid, featuring a dizzying rotunda with a spiral ramp.

At first not everyone liked the Guggenheim's design. One critic even compared it to a washing machine. But in a TV interview during construction, Wright made it clear he didn't care:

"I've heard a lot of that type of reaction and I've always discounted it as worthless, and I think it is," Wright said.

Though Wright didn't live to see the completed building, millions of others have in the more than half-century since ... beholding exhibits as eclectic as the building itself.

From motorcycles displayed as works of art ... to a circular celebration of Picasso, whose art is currently on display ... to the comforting realism of Norman Rockwell, the Guggenheim has hosted them all.

Sometimes the building itself has been part of the show:

Twelve years ago we sat beside artist Nam June Paik as he transformed the rotunda interior into a multistory light show ...

And in 2003 "Sunday Morning" dropped by again as James Rosenquist made the vast space his own.

The Guggenheim has even played a supporting role in motion pictures, including 1997's "Men in Black," which featured Will Smith as a New York City detective racing up that long spiral ramp.

And though some artists may feel the building overshadows their work, that wasn't the view of the late Dan Flavin, who lit up the rotunda with flourescent light back in 1992:

"I don't think this building will ever resolve as a museum. It's a monument to Mr. Wright, and that's fine," Flavin said. "It's fun to be here."

A sentiment with which we neck-craning visitors can only agree.

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