Peggy Guggenheim’s three decades in Venice

Peggy Guggenheim left a mark on the Italian city's art scene, expanding her collection and supporting the career of some of modern art’s biggest names. A new exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection explores the collector’s life along the canals.

Published 15 Oct 2019, 17:30 BST
Peggy Guggenheim with her Lhasa Apsos terriers on the terrace of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.
Peggy Guggenheim with her Lhasa Apsos terriers on the terrace of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Venice. The American collector spent 30 years in the Italian city.
Photo Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche

Art-lovers will have yet another reason to visit Venice from next month thanks to a brand-new exhibition. ‘Peggy Guggenheim. The Last Dogaressa’ is set to go on display within the 18th-century Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the American art collector's former home and now the location of her museum, to celebrate the 30 years she spent in the Italian city.

The exhibition will run from 21 September 2019 to 27 January 2020, featuring more than 60 works by famous and lesser-known artists, which Guggenheim acquired between 1948 and 1979 — years that became milestones in 20th century art history. Visitors will have the rare opportunity to view famous pieces such as Empire of Light by René Magritte and Study for Chimpanzee by Francis Bacon, as well as less exhibited works like René Brô’s Autumn at Courgeron.

In 1948, Guggenheim was invited to display her collection at the Venice Biennale, the first presentation of her collection in Europe following the closure of her New York gallery. The art she showcased was among the most contemporary on display, and ‘Peggy Guggenheim. The Last Dogaressa’ pays tribute to this occasion. Works by Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still, which were on display at the 1948 event, will open the upcoming show; there will also be two pieces by Jackson Pollock in a nod to his first solo exhibition in Europe, organised by Guggenheim in Venice.

Further highlights will focus on Guggenheim's interest in the CoBrA group (an artists’ collective formed in Paris) as well as contemporary British art and optical and kinetic art, which Guggenheim enjoyed for the use of geometric forms and the use of industrial materials in creating perceptive illusions. Her private scrapbooks will also be on public display for the first time.

The exhibition is part of a larger programme of events organised by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to commemorate two anniversaries: 70 years since Guggenheim moved into Palazzo Venier dei Leoni and 40 years since she passed away.

Guggenheim was more than just an art collector, having played a pivotal role in supporting artists and displaying their work, and this exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see her collection almost in its entirety.

Empire of Light by René Magritte. Visitors will have the opportunity to observe this famous piece at the ‘Peggy Guggenheim. The Last Dogaressa’ exhibition in Venice.
Photograph by René Magritte, SIAE 2019

Three more to see

Pablo Picasso, On the Beach (La Baignade), 1937
Painted at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre near Versailles, using oil, Conté crayon and chalk on canvas, this work of art draws upon aspects of surrealism and depicts two ossified, volumetric female forms in a beach environment.

Max Ernst, Attirement of the Bride (La Toilette de la Mariée), 1940
Max Ernst was Peggy Guggenheim's second husband (1941-1946), and several of his works are now part of the surrealism collection. Ernst developed an alter ego, a strange birdlike figure known as Loplop, and this painting features mysterious humanoid birds portraying the various stages of a bride’s life.

Marcel Duchamp, Box in a Valise, 1941
A selection of 69 miniature reproductions of the French-American artist’s own work, housed in a leather carrying case that Duchamp described as a portable museum. The first 20 editions of boxes were gifted to Duchamp’s friends and patrons and contained an 'original' — in this case, a reproduction of Le Roi et le Reine Entourés de nus Vites (1912), hand-coloured by the artist. This work of art is rarely on view due to its fragility, and it will now be possible to admire it in Venice after an important study and conservation campaign carried out at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.

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