By Jussi Rosendahl
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Helsinki will not follow Bilbao and Venice in hosting a Guggenheim museum after city councillors finally rejected proposals first made five years ago for a new building on the Finnish capital’s waterfront.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation raised the idea for the museum in 2011 but the project faced strong resistance from the start as many Finns coping with an economy in recession and austerity measures considered it a waste of money.
Following a five-hour meeting, Helsinki city council turned down the plan to build the museum on what is now a car park for the third time in the early hours of Thursday, with 53 members voting against a revised proposal and 32 supporting it.
Osku Pajamaki, a council member from the Social Democrats, said he was happy with the vote, adding: “There are no shortcuts to tourism and cultural attractions when the Finnish capital is in question.”
Under the revised plan, the city of Helsinki would have paid 80 million euros ($85 million) and private donors about 66 million euros of the building costs. The government ruled out any state aid for the museum in September due to opposition from the co-ruling nationalist Finns party.
The museum’s promoters had said it would give Finland a cultural and tourism boost, citing the example of the Bilbao Guggenheim which helped to transform the northern Spanish city into a popular art and architectural destination.
Finnish foundations, companies and private individuals such as Nokia’s former chief executive Jorma Ollila had pledged funds for the project.
The Guggenheim Foundation’s deputy director Ari Wiseman told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat he believed the vote meant the project was “practically finished”.
“The political climate has changed and the financial situation has changed,” he was quoted as saying.
(Additional reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Catherine Evans)