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Venice, Italy. Among the fabulous palazzo's lining Venice's "Grand Canal", Peggy Guggenheims' white-washed, one-story residence-of-one-time may seem
humble. Built in the 18th century,"Palazzo Venier dei Leoni" was purchased in 1947 by Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim, and was never-fully completed. It
does possess one of the most peaceful, and most green spaces in all of Venice proper, and seems to be the ideal spot for Peggy's private collection of
20th century artwork.
In 1951, with the bulk of Peggy's masterpieces in tact, visitors were invited to view the collection three afternoons a week, often times while Peggy
sunned herself on the roof. Museum patrons had full access to her home, including bathrooms and dressing rooms. Perhaps while admiring a "Miro" in the
restroom, you might catch a glimpse of just-washed stockings drying on a rack, or a half-dressed Peggy fleeing through the dressing room looking for a
pair of shoes or sunglasses. The museum houses works by Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Piet Mondrian, and Jackson Pollock.
The collection began when she opened her first gallery in London,"Guggenheim Jeune" in 1938 and truly came to fruition in France at the outbreak of WWII.
At that time Peggy set out to buy one piece of artwork per day, and that she did. Her dream was to open a museum of modern art in Paris. As the war
escalated and the danger of being Jewish in Europe increased, Peggy abandoned this idea. She safely stored her collection in the south of France and
headed back to the US. 1942 New York had not seen the likes of Peggy's discoveries abroad, and thus she set up the critically acclaimed "Art of This
Century" to introduce Surrealism, to the hungry New York market. She was married to one of her favorite surrealist painters, Max Ernst during this
period, whom she helped escape Nazi occupied France, the marriage lasted only three years. It was during this time in New York that she became aware of
Jackson Pollock, who worked at her Uncle Solomon's museum, Peggy became his sponsor and takes credit for his stardom. After five years in New York,
during which she says she "went to bed drunk every night..." Peggy was tired of her New York gallery and of New York in general, and moved the show to
Venice,her favorite European city. She remained there until her death in 1979.
and also Abstract Impressionism. You won't see any "Pop-Art" anywhere on the property, as Peggy despised it. The museum is light and airy, and feels
like a home. It feels personal, partly due to the fact that she was intimate either amicably, or sexually with many of the artists on display, also
because of the several black and white photographs that appear amongst the collection showing Peggy living in the space; reclining on a couch, or sitting
at a dining table in the same spot that you are standing admiring one of her masterpieces. The pictures add so much personality to the place, I found
myself spending more time in front of them then some of the actual artwork.
There is an entire wing dedicated to Jackson Pollock, and also a wing showing the colorful paintings of Guggenheim's only daughter from her first
marriage. Peggy's daughter "Pegeen Vail" died of an overdose in Paris at the age of 41. It is said that Peggy never recovered from her daughters death,
she stopped dying her hair, and created a shrine of Pegeen's paintings at the palazzo. Yet another wing of the museum houses the collection of the
Italian collector, Gianni Mattioli showcasing modern Italian artists, and "Futurists". The bottom part of the museum is used for special collections,
there is also an excellent little cafe and a well-stocked museum shop where you can pick up a pair of Peggy's signature sunglasses.
Peggy is said to have spent around $40,000 (US) on the collection and it is estimated today to be worth well over 50 million dollars. Peggy Guggenheim is
a cultural icon and said to be responsible for introducing the world to modern art as we now know it. Do yourself a favor this winter: read her
biography "Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim", pick up a pair of wacky sunglasses and start looking at art the way Peggy did, with an eye
towards the future.
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