Peggy - A life for art
Cultured, sophisticated, intriguing, and a millionaire. A life-long lover of things beautiful, the us collector Peggy guggenheim dedicated her life to the search for talent and genius. She was a patron and inspiring muse of the masters who revolutionised art in the 20th century: from the dadaist sculptor laurence vail, her first husband, to the surrealist max ernst, who she met in paris on the eve of the second world war and married, her third husband, in 1941.
Telling of Peggy’s passion for art is a truly special Museum-house: palazzo Venier dei leoni looking over grand canal in Venice, where she lived for 30 years and which today houses some of the authentic masterpieces of contemporary art. It is thanks to these treasures that the centro cultural Palacio la moneda in Santiago, chile, has been able to put on an extraordinary exhibition like great moderns, Peggy Guggenheim collection, Venice - art from the 20th century, which for the first time will be taking the historical pieces of her collection to latin america. Until now, in chile the Guggenheim name was renowned above all for the mining empire built by Peggy’s grandfather and still celebrated today at the Solomon r. Guggenheim museum in New York, Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiral building. Peggy - marguerite - was born in New York on 26 august 1898.
Her father Benjamin, a swiss-german jew, died in 1912 on the titanic. Her mother florette seligman, the heir of an important banking family, raised young Peggy, who aged 21, with the large fortune left by her father, began to travel Europe and settled in paris. Here, in the twenties, the enthusiastic american heiress mixed with artists and intellectuals including Marcel Duchamp and Samuel Beckett. They include the cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braques and the surrealist works of Salvador Dalì and Max Ernst, including the marvellous the robing of the bride, which with its mysterious bird-women is one of the most interesting pieces in the venetian collection. During the same time, Peggy also bought the sophisticated works of abstract painters including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.
The collection grew in step with the life experiences of the collector: every work marked a passage, a city or the interest for a new trend. Here in 1948 she discovered the magnificent, abandoned palazzo Venier dei leoni, right next to the basilica of Santa Maria della salute, with one of the largest gardens in Venice. She bought it and followed the renovation works, staying in the hotel opposite, the Savoia & Jolanda, dreaming of bringing over the masterpieces of the european and american avant-garde. In 1948, she was invited to take part in the first venice biennale held after the war. And on that occasion, in Italy, the works of hans arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti, Kazimir Malevic, Alexander Calder, Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still were shown for the first time.
The collection was exhibited in the greek pavilion in the gardens and Peggy finally realised her dream of creating a museum. Meanwhile, the palazzo was ready and in 1949 she moved in with her inseparable dogs and her art collection. The house soon became an international reference, a fashionable meeting point for friends, artists and intellectuals. Every room was decorated with paintings and sculptures. In the bedroom on the first floor, next to the calder bed head, was her infinite collection of artists’ earrings. They are the same rooms which today are open to the public, set up as a museum with the marvellous works of art also of italian artists, from the futurists Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini to the metaphysical artist Giorgio de Chirico. One of the features that charmed her most about Venice was the unique light reflected from the lagoon onto the buildings and architecture. For Peggy, living in that city meant being surrounded by art. And her museum-house is nothing more than the pure incarnation of that need.