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  • The Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

    A dramatic $178 million museum on the waterfront in Helsinki, Finland has been proposed by The Guggenheim Museum in New York. It wants to expand a global footprint that already includes Italy, Spain and Germany.

    The Guggenheim said the city lacked a significant modern art collection. Its project is designed to fill the gap, and the museum dangled another carrot–increased tourism for the cash-strapped capital.

    The Helsinki government is also being asked to jointly develop the museum, according to Reuters. But the project is facing questions over its cost.

    Finnish culture minister Paavo Arhinmaki charged that Finnish taxpayers would end up paying close to 100 million euros for the project. “The funding plan has been created with such high hopes that they can’t be fulfilled,” Arhinmaki told Finnish News Agency STT.

    “It is also worth considering whether Finnish taxpayers should finance a rich, multinational foundation in the first place,” he added.

    Finland Facing Budget Cuts

    Cuts in the state’s cultural budget for other projects might be necessary to cover the cost, or the money would need to be found elsewhere in the budget, he noted. The request comes at a time when the Finnish government is currently slashing programs. The austerity move is in response to the global financial crisis.

    Helsinki was chosen because it has a strong local interest and tradition in art and design. The city’s plans to develop its harbor area is also an added attraction, the museum said in its proposal.

    “We were quite interested and excited by what we saw here – a population that is highly educated, which is very important for the success of the museum and for potential audience development,” Guggenheim Deputy Director Ari Wiseman, told Reuters.

    Wiseman, along with city officials, presented the proposal at the landmark Finlandia Hall designed by Alvar Aalto, after a year-long feasibility study.

    Guggenheim Project Seeks Private Funding

    The museum is slated for a site on the south side of Helsinki’s harbor on land currently owned by the government. The museum is hoping the city launches an architectural competition that could lead to an opening by 2018. The project is also seeking private and corporate funding.

    The city is expected to make a decision on the project in the next few weeks. A $2.5 million study will be conducted during the year to determine whether building a museum in the city is feasible.

    The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has its main headquarters and exhibits at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum in Manhattan.