The New York-based Guggenheim organization has had to retrench in recent months because of a drop in revenues, but Rio de Janeiro’s government has agreed to pay for building a $170-million museum there that’s already stirring controversy.
Mayor Cesar Maia, who signed the contract Wednesday in New York, defends the project as the anchor for a much-needed renovation of Rio’s rundown port district. He says the cost will not burden taxpayers because the city has a surplus of $618 million.
“The Guggenheim will help Rio recover its place at the center of Brazilian culture,” Maia said recently, and the city “will become a required stop for all South Atlantic cruise ships.”
Critics call the plan “a cultural Titanic.” They question everything from its cost to French architect Jean Nouvel’s design, which some have likened to a huge, rusting oil drum partly submerged in the bay.
The museum’s projected cost is more than four times the annual budget of Brazil’s Culture Ministry. City Councilman Mario del Rei says the actual cost will be much higher, and argues the money would be better spent on schools, day-care centers and health clinics.