Guggenheim is determined to be the hottest brand in the modern art world

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The Independent US

Guggenheim museums are, it seems, the Starbucks of the art world. Officially, they are dedicated to "the collection, preservation, presentation,and interpretation of modern and contemporary art and culture". Unofficially, their aim is to become the biggest and hottest global art brand.

Guggenheim museums are, it seems, the Starbucks of the art world. Officially, they are dedicated to "the collection, preservation, presentation,and interpretation of modern and contemporary art and culture". Unofficially, their aim is to become the biggest and hottest global art brand.

Guggenheims are established already in New York, Berlin, Venice, Bilbao and in cyberspace. Who knows - they may soon bring Picassos, Warhols and Lichtensteins to a street corner near you.

The sixth branch of the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation's empire, to be opened in Las Vegas, will confirm the foundation's ambition of world domination in modern art. This it is achieving through the re-invention of the museum as a popular attraction as well as a venue for the popularisation of modern artworks.

The combined Guggenheim collections now run to 8,000 paintings, sculptures and installations and the pace of expansion seems unstoppable, feeding on a barely tapped global appetite for democratic art in spectacular surroundings.

Guggenheim Bilbao, housed in a dazzling titanium-clad Frank Gehry colossus on a previously run-down industrial waterfront, has injected so much life and pride into the down-at-heel port capital of the Basque region - crowds are drawn as much by the stunning architecture as by the art - that up to six Italian cities have now applied to build their own copy-cat Guggenheims.

Venice also wants a second one to build on the success of the Peggy Guggenheim collection. After nearly a dozen years of negotiation, the Guggenheim is about to take over the Dogana, a late 17th-century pavilion opposite St Mark's Cathedral. The new Venice Guggenheim will cost $30m (£22m) to transform and will open in 2005. And the Italians are not alone - bids have also been made by Austria, South Africa and Latin America.

Gehry, designer of the Bilbao Guggenheim, has been recruited by Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim's director, to produce plans for a giant new modern art palace on the Manhattan waterfront. The Gehry design envisages the equivalent of a 40-storey office block containing 200,000 square feet of display space.

Nor would the new Berlin be complete without a Guggenheim. Here the foundation teamed up with Deutsche Bank, harnessing its premises on Unter den Linden near the Brandenburg gate. Although small, the Guggenheim has, the foundation says, generated an extraordinary response.

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