Friday, 9 March 2012

European Art: 1949-1979 & Marion R. Taylor: Paintings, 1966-2001 ...and Changes at Rialto

Emilio Vedova - Immagine del tempo (Sbarramento) 1951
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, Venezia
© Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova
(Venice, Italy) Peggy Guggenheim lived inside Palazzo Venier dei Leoni for thirty years, from 1949 to 1979. One of the world's most famous collectors, Peggy closed her museum/gallery Art of This Century in New York in 1947 and, at age 50, arrived at the palace on the Grand Canal like an exotic alien from Looking Glass World, bringing her vision of the artistic avant-garde into the ancient city. With her own gondola, a tribe of Lhasa apso dogs and her legendary parties, she injected her own kaleidoscope into the Venetian landscape.

Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim was born into a wealthy, colorful family in New York. When Peggy was 13-years-old, her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the ship Titanic. From Wikipedia:

...realizing he was not going to be rescued, he then returned to his cabin with Giglio and the two men changed into evening wear. The two were seen heading into the Grand staircase closing the door behind them. He was heard to remark, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen." He also gave a survivor a message saying, "Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward." Guggenheim and his valet were last seen seated in deck chairs in the Staircase sipping brandy and smoking cigars. Both men went down with the ship.

Peggy inherited a small fortune when she was 21-years-old. She moved to Paris, and spent her time with the avant-garde, embracing the eccentric world of artists and writers. With the help of Marcel Duchamp, she learned about the World of Art, became a patron and a collector, and eventually established galleries and museums where she could display her stash. During World War II, she went on a buying spree. From Wikipedia:

In August 1939, Peggy Guggenheim left for Paris to negotiate loans for the first exhibition. In her luggage was a list drawn up by Herbert Read for this occasion. Shortly after her departure the Second World War broke out, and the events following 1 September 1939 made her abandon the scheme, willingly or not.
She then "decided now to buy paintings by all the painters who were on Herbert Read's list. Having plenty of time and all the museum's funds at my disposal, I put myself on a regime to buy one picture a day."[1] When finished, she had acquired ten Picassos, forty Ernsts, eight Mirós, four Magrittes, three Man Rays, three Dalís, one Klee, one Wolfgang Paalen and one Chagall among others. In the meantime, she had also made new plans and in April 1940 had rented a large space in the Place Vendôme as a new home for her museum.
A few days before the Germans reached Paris, Peggy Guggenheim had to abandon her plans for a Paris museum, and fled to the south of France, from where, after months of safeguarding her collection and artist friends, she left Europe for New York in the summer of 1941. There, in the following year, she opened a new gallery which actually was in part a museum. It was called The Art of This Century Gallery. Three of the four galleries were dedicated to Cubist and Abstract art, Surrealism and Kinetic art, with only the fourth, the front room, being a commercial gallery.

Mirko - L'iniziato, 1955
Fondazione Solomon R. Guggenheim, Venezia
Donated: Vera and Raphael Zariski, 2007.7
After she closed The Art of This Century in 1947, the following year Peggy was invited to exhibit her collection in the unused Greek pavilion of the Venice Biennale. In July 1949, she bought Palazzo Venier dei Leoni and continued to collect. The exhibition European Art 1949 - 1979 curated by Philip Rylands, the director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, celebrates this post-war period, and her Venetian life.

Lucio Fontana - Concetto spaziole, Attese 1965
Fondazione Samuel R. Guggenheim, Venezia
Donation, Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Venezia
© Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milano by SIAE 2012
In addition, many paintings have been donated to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection since Peggy's death in 1979, and this exhibition provides the opportunity to put some of them on display: a Letter to Palladio by Giuseppe Santomaso, early and late paintings by Armando Pizzinato, decoupages by Mimmo Rotella, two paintings by Lucio Fontana -- including a 1955 example of ‘holes’ bequeathed in 2011 -- a major painting by Pierre Alechinsky, an aluminum relief by Heinz Mack, prints by Eduardo Chillida, a Homage to the Square by Josef Albers, an ‘extroflexed’ canvas by Agostino Bonalumi, an entire room of sculptures by Mirko as well as his iconic tempera study for the Gates of the Fosse Ardeatine, a late monotype by Emilio Vedova, works by Bice Lazzari, Gastone Novelli and Toti Scialoja, and two paintings by Carla Accardi, including Concentric Blue of 1956.

Pierre Alechinsky - Vulcano azteco 1971
Fondazione Samuel R. Guggenheim, Venezia
Donation: Enrico & Fiorella Chiari
©Pierre Alechinsky by SIAE 2012 
The exhibition closes with a tribute to Marion R. Taylor, whose works were donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1998. Taylor died in 2010, and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection dedicates to the artist her first solo exhibition.

Marion R. Taylor - Newton, 1989
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift of the artist, 1998
From the New York Times obituary:

Marion (Riki) Richardson, on February 10, 2010, beloved wife of the late author and diplomat, Ambassador Henry J. Taylor. An international artist, philanthropist and lifelong Republican, Riki was surrounded by a wide and diverse circle of friends. A conservative in political matters, she was a vanguard in her artistic work and advocacy. Her own artworks are in private collections and corporate headquarters, with several of her paintings part of the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection. Serving on the Advisory Board of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, she was active during their European expansion and beyond, and was an active member of many other institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, The Frick Collection and Whitney Museum of American Art. Her charitable efforts and event chairmanships included the American Cancer Society, Women's National Republican Club, American-Swiss Association, American-Scottish Foundation, Manhattan Institute, Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies, and many others. Her dinner parties were legendary, and attracted the political, diplomatic, creative and intellectual communities. A member of the Council of American Ambassadors, Riki was an advocate for and supporter of our foreign embassies as both positive and beneficial links to the international community.

Church of San Giacometto
Meanwhile, over by Rialto, the Church of San Giacometto, Venice's most ancient church, has been transformed. Several organizations have collaborated to raise the awareness of art and music, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is one of them. Others are Chorus Churches, a group of Venetian churches dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of 1000 years of art; Interpreti Veneziani, a musical ensemble dedicated to bringing harmony back to the ancient venues that still stand in Venice; and the Museum of Music created by Interpreti Veneziani which houses the Artemio Versari collection of ancient instruments in the Church of San Maurizio.

San Giacometto by Canaletto (1725)

Now, part of the Artemio Versari collection has been added to the Church of San Giacometto, and the church itself has been buffed and polished, its doors thrown open, transforming it into both a music museum and a church. I was startled at first, but decided I liked the new energy. However, I was a bit thrown off when I was lighting a candle for my brother who recently died and a tourist interrupted my thoughts with the question, "How much do the candles cost?" 

I surveyed some locals in the area, including Sergio Boldrin, the mask-maker, and everyone agreed that the new energy was positive as long as everyone remembers that San Giacometto is first a church. Sergio's tiny shop at the foot of the Rialto Bridge shares part of the wall of the church. 

To me, the most important opinion was that of Paolo, the long-time caretaker of the church. I have known Paolo for more than a decade, and he, too, thought the change was positive. 

Over by the fish market, a new addition to the neighborhood caught my eye -- a shop tucked into the corner, its bold, bright colors proclaiming: ART@The Fish Market. Instead of the word, "fish", there was the image of a bright pink fish amongst a school of vivid blue and yellow fish swimming in the window. I wandered in, and met the vivacious Annamaria Cimbal, who had moved from Milano to the island of Burano and opened her Yellow Submarine gallery tucked among the natives. Annamaria has exhibited all over the world, including in the Italian Parliament. I fell in love with her vibrant pop art, sprinkled with joy and sunshine. 

Annamaria Cimbal with her art - Chinese word for "Love" on the left;
Madonna & Child on the right
In addition, the fountain in the center of Campo San Giacometto has been restored, as has the statue of Gobbo. After years of serving as a bench for tourists, the fountain is finally flowing again with water. According to legend, Venice herself was born at San Giacometto on March 25, 421AD at 12:00 noon. Banking was invented at Rialto, and the church was considered the church of the merchants, who centered at Rialto from all over the world. There is an engraving on the apse that states: "Round about this church may the merchant be equitable, the weights just and may no fraudulent contract be negotiated." If the energy at Rialto, the heart of Venice, continues in this positive direction, perhaps the right kind of magic will return to the Magic Kingdom. 

Fountain at San Giacometto
Ciao from Venice,

1 comment:

  1. Peggy Guggenheim lived inside Palazzo Venier dei Leoni for thirty years, from 1949 to 1979. One of the world's most famous collectors, Peggy closed her museum/gallery Art of This Century in New York in 1947 and, at age 50, arrived at the palace on the Grand Canal like an exotic alien from Looking Glass World, bringing her vision of the artistic avant-garde into the ancient city. With her own gondola, a tribe of Lhasa apso dogs and her legendary parties, she injected her own kaleidoscope into the Venetian landscape.