Resignation 'no threat to Guggenheim alliance'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 12:00am

Cheung Kong (Holdings) last night insisted that its alliance with New York's Guggenheim remained intact despite reports the museum's billionaire benefactor and chairman has resigned.

Peter Lewis, who has bailed out the museum to the tune of US$77 million, resigned from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum board on Wednesday over concerns at its international spread, The New York Times reported.

The move comes just nine months after Cheung Kong - through its Dynamic Star International consortium with a Sun Hung Kai Properties subsidiary - boosted its West Kowloon ambitions with a deal to open a Guggenheim museum.

'We are not in a position to comment on the internal affairs of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Nonetheless, we are pleased to report that we continue to work very smoothly with the foundation,' Cheung Kong spokeswoman Wendy Tong Barnes said. The developer has been particularly persistent in securing backing from the museum and last month flew local journalists on a whirlwind tour of Guggenheim museums.

Mr Lewis has been critical of the expanding international network of Guggenheim museums, complaining that it should 'concentrate more on New York and less on being scattered all over the world', The New York Times reported. Guggenheim museums are in New York, Spain, Italy and Germany. Thomas Krens, director of the museum's network, favours the global push.

If the Guggenheim deal collapses, Cheung Kong could fall back on its alliance with the Pompidou Centre of France. Both museums have signed deals to set up shop in the West Kowloon site if the developer is awarded the controversial project, but there are signs that Guggenheim and Pompidou have not seen eye to eye on this.

Pompidou president Bruno Racine last year said 'we're not interested in managing a museum together with Guggenheim'.

A Pompidou spokeswoman said last night that Mr Lewis' resignation would not change its involvement with the project. 'For us nothing has changed,' she said.