Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peggy Guggenheim!

 Venice, 1966

Yes... I was talking about Peggy Guggenheim in my previous post Can you guess who she is? and so many of you guessed right (the comments are now published on that post) but the first to give the right answer was John Lyle. I am sure many of you are familiar with his name, if not I encourage you to go HERE to see his website, full of extraordinary pieces.
Back to Peggy, she was one of the most influential collectors of modern art in the twentieth century...Hard to believe but she considered herself as the poor Guggenheim, since the death of her father aboard the Titanic created some financial troubles for her mother, so even if she was quite wealthy her lifestyle was not comparable to those of her uncles.  She became friend, or lover, or wife of many outstanding artists, among them Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Yves Tanguy, Laurence Vail, Samuel Beckett and she started collecting works from unknown artists of her time, soon to become icons in the art world.
During my last visit to Venice I went once again to  Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, her long searched dream home, an unfinished palace on the Grand Canal. The name comes from the eight carved marble  lion heads decorating the facade.  The palazzo construction began in 1748 for the Venier family (three of the city's doges were Venier); the building remained incompiuto, unfinished, for uncertain reasons, several speculations no precise answer. When Peggy saw it the palazzo still had only one finished floor and she decided to keep it that way.

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In the beautiful garden of the palazzo Peggy installed a marble Byzantine throne. The enigmatic shapes of sculptures by Brancusi, Giacometti and others created a great contrast with it and are still there, with latest new additions.

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"Standing Woman" (1947) by Alberto Giacometti

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Maurizio Nannucci (2003)

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A sculpture by Anish Kapoor (2007)

Inside the building we can appreciate a vast collection of modern and contemporary art, her furniture are gone but luckily we can still see photographs and explanations of how the palazzo looked when she lived there. Below is a picture of Peggy  in her bedroom, which had a view of the Grand Canal, notice on the wall behind the bed,  shimmering like the Venetian water, the silver sculpture with  fish and butterfly, made by Calder  in 1946 in new York, but absolutely at home here in Venice.
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Now the piece rests on a wall of her previous bedroom, surrounded by other art, in front there is a window with a display of her glass collection reflecting the lights on the water. The bedroom when she lived there had turquoise walls, curtains made out of Indian saris and a marabou bedcover of the same color. Venetian mirrors and a huge collection of her earrings were adorning the walls.

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The Library
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This room could very well be featured on today's Interior design magazines, timeless style. She wanted white vinyl on the sofas, easy to wash every morning since her many dogs felt at home in the best seats. Over the sofas she placed black and white striped fur rugs which she said the dogs adored to lick...
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The dining room
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Princess Pignatelli once said to her that if she would throw in the Grand Canal all those ugly pictures she would have the most beautiful house in Venice, of course Peggy knew she had an exquisite collection and her house was the best display for it.
In August 1978, Peggy turned eighty and her birthday was celebrated appropriately.  Descending from  her personal gondola, to go to the party held for her at the Gritti Hotel she was greeted by a banner with her name and a phrase "To the Ultima Dogaressa" referring to the power of the ancient dogi of Venice. So famous was her collection that Venice's international Biennale once gave her a pavilion all to herself.  Peggy said: "It was wonderful, I was listed with Germany and France. I felt like a whole country all by myself."
Later in life she found a way that would permanently preserve her palazzo and her collection. In 1976 she donated her collection to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (started by her uncle in New York) stating that the collection must remain in its location in Venice, thus creating the Venetian branch Guggenheim-Venice.

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She passed away on 23 December 1979 and her ashes were buried in the garden between her marble throne and the graves of her beloved dogs. The marble headstone is engraved with the simple inscription:
"Here lies Peggy Guggenheim, 1898-1979"

Photography by Albarosa Simonetti (images of Peggy Guggenheim were photographed from the walls)

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Claudia Juestel said...

What a great post Albarosa. I love Peggy's living room. And you are right, it could easily be featured in a current magazine. I vote "World of Interiors".

Your story also reminded me about how Salzburg lost a Guggenheim museum designed by award-winning Austrian architect Hans Hollein, all due to local politics. Although my home town now has an impressive modern art museum in the same location overlooking the old city, it is not quite the same. Plus the project went to a German firm, Friedrich, Hoff & Zwink. I would have rather seen Hollein's astonishing subterranean design.

Ah well, Bilbao may not have been had it all happened as planned. C'est la vie.



diane@onlinefabricstore said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks so much for the glimpse into her amazing life and amazing home.

G. said...

Good morning, Albarosa.
I'm sure others by now have pointed out the funny typo: Ernst wasn't a Marxist.
And one point of disagreement - to me one of the charms of the Guggenheim is that it isn't "vast." that it's small allows the visitor to really absorb instead of madly running from one thing to the next.

Brillante Home Decor said...

Dear G.
Oh, yes of course Max not Marx, should I try to call Mr. Freud? Thanks for the warning, typo corrected.

John Lyle said...

"Ah, good guess...Your description of her was spot on..."

Dovecote Decor said...

I needed way more hints for that one, but great segue. Loved the quick trip to Venice.


This is a fantastic entry! I didn't know much about Peggy G - What a personality! Love her sense of sophistication which definitely timeless...

Dovecote Decor said...

I'll go to Milan with you any day! Thanks for the nice comment.

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