Travel | Peggy Guggenheim, Venice

One of the highlights from our short trip to Venice, was visiting the Peggy Guggenheim museum.  That morning we had arrived early, after being up since 5.30am to beat the heat and the crowds.  So by 10am, we were desperate to get into the garden and see the art.

I’ve wanted to visit the collection for so long,. You can keep St Marks Square , the basilica and palace – it was this I was looking forward to visiting.  

A little history: Peggy Guggenheim was dedicated to the advancement of 20th century art.  In 1939 Peggy conceived “the idea of opening a modern museum in London,” with her friend Herbert Read as its director. In 1939-40, having abandoned her project for a museum in London, Peggy busily acquired works for her collection, keeping to her resolve to “buy a picture a day.” Some of the masterpieces, such as works by Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Piet Mondrian and Francis Picabia, were bought at that time.In October 1942 Peggy opened her museum/gallery Art of This Century. Designed by the Romanian-Austrian architect Frederick Kiesler, the gallery consisted of innovative exhibition rooms and soon became the most stimulating venue for contemporary art in New York City. Of the opening night, she wrote: “I wore one of my Tanguy earrings and one made by Calder in order to show my impartiality between Surrealist and Abstract Art.” Peggy exhibited there her collection of Cubist, abstract and Surrealist art, which was already substantially that which we see today in Venice. She produced a remarkable catalogue, edited by André Breton, with a cover design by Ernst, and held temporary exhibitions of leading European artists, and of several then unknown young Americans such as Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Mark Rothko, David Hare, Richard Pousette-Dart, Robert de Niro Sr, Clyfford Still, and Jackson Pollock, the ‘star’ of the gallery, who was given his first show by Peggy late in 1943.

In October 1942 Peggy opened her museum/gallery Art of This Century. Designed by the Romanian-Austrian architect Frederick Kiesler, the gallery consisted of innovative exhibition rooms and soon became the most stimulating venue for contemporary art in New York City. Of the opening night, she wrote: “I wore one of my Tanguy earrings and one made by Calder in order to show my impartiality between Surrealist and Abstract Art.”

In 1947 Peggy decided to return in Europe, where her collection was shown for the first time at the 1948 Venice Biennale, in the Greek pavilion. In this way the works of artists such as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko were exhibited for the first time in Europe. The presence of Cubist, abstract, and Surrealist art made the pavilion the most coherent survey of Modernism yet to have been presented in Italy. Soon after, Peggy bought Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal in Venice, where she came to live. In 1950 Peggy organized the first European exhibition of Jackson Pollock, in the Ala Napoleonica of the Museo Correr in Venice.

Peggy died aged 81 on 23 December 1979. Her ashes are placed in a corner of the garden of her museum. Since this time, under the oversight of the Guggenheim Foundation, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection has become one of the finest museums of modern art in the world. – excerpt from the Guggenheim website.

The collection didn’t disappoint. The garden, the rooms, the terrace… it was all so beautiful. The collection itself was breathtaking. So many great artists under one roof… Picasso, Alexander Calder (my favourite), Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock and more.

I loved showing it all to the boys, we wandered from room to room, talking about the art, how it made us feel, what we could see, and what we loved about each piece.

My favourite item from the whole collection was the Alexander Calder earrings he made for Peggy.  I so want them!


Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni
Dorsoduro 701
I-30123 Venezia

website:  www.guggenheim-venice.it