Monday, September 23, 2019

The Legacy of Peggy Guggenheim - The Last Dogaressa of Venice


Peggy Guggenheim at Home in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni 
Photo courtesy Peggy Guggeheim Collection 
Peggy Guggenheim in the dining room of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Venice, mid 1960s. 
On the left wall, Vasily Kandinsky, Landscape with Red Spots, No. 2 (Landschaft mit roten Flecken, Nr. 2), 1913. 
On the back wall, at center, Umberto Boccioni, Dynamism of a Speeding Horse + Houses  
(Dinamismo di un cavallo in corsa + case), 1915.  
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Photo Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche. Gift, Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia, 2005.
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(Venice, Italy) Karole Vail, the curator of The Last Dogaressa, continues the legacy of her renowned grandmother, Peggy Guggenheim, by celebrating her Venetian life. Karole stepped into the ruby slippers in 2017 when she became the director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of the most visited museums of modern art in all of Italy. The daughter of Sindbad Vail, Peggy's son with her first husband, Laurence Vail, Karole reigns judiciously over Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, once Peggy's own home on the Grand Canal, which houses her collection.

Alchemy by Jackson Pollock at Peggy Guggenheim: The Last Dogaressa - photo by Cat Bauer
The hypnotic Alchemy by Jackson Pollock - Photo: Cat Bauer
The exhibition focuses on Peggy's collecting after 1948 when she closed Art of This Century, her museum-gallery in New York City, packed up her mind-blowing collection, and moved to Venice. That year, Peggy was invited to exhibit her artists at the 24th Venice Art Biennale. The exhibit kicks off with a tribute to the works of art that Peggy put on show in the Greek Pavilion, which created a sensation -- after the end of WWII, it rocked the world with its young American Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock's European debut -- Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Irene Rice Pereira and Clyfford Still are all there. We get a peek into Peggy's scrapbooks, including the June 11, 1948 note from the former Consul General of Greece in Venice, typos and all.


In July 1949, Peggy acquired Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an 18th-century unfinished palace on the Grand Canal. Wasting no time, she opened her garden to the public in September with Exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture. The exhibition marks its 70th anniversary with works by artists such as Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti.

Soon Peggy began a new phase in her collecting -- Italian artists. She scooped up Edmondo Bacci, Piero Dorazio, Emilio Vedova and Tancredi Parmeggiani, putting Tancredi under contract, the only artist besides Jackson Pollock to gain that distinction.

There is a section devoted to the CoBrA group -- artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam -- contemporary British art, and highlights of Op and Kinetic Art, which used geometric forms and industrial materials to create optical effects and illusions. More than 60 works by famous and lesser-known artists are on display, including paintings, sculptures and works on paper -- everyone from Francis Bacon to René Magritte to to Heinz Mack to Henry Moore.

Sphere by Franco Costalonga - Photo: Cat Bauer
Concurrently with The Last Dogaressa, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni is displaying works that Peggy bought between 1938 -- when she opened Guggenheim Jeune, her very first gallery in London -- and 1947, when she moved to Venice, so you have the chance to see her collection almost in its entirety. Marcel Duchamp's masterpiece, the first Box in a Valise, is so fragile that it is rarely on view to the public, but after a fresh conservation campaign, it is there waiting for you to admire.

Francesca Lavazza and Karole Vail at Peggy Guggenheim: The Last Dogaressa - photo by Cat Bauer
Francesca Lavazza & Karole Vail - Photo: Cat Bauer
The exhibition is made possible thanks to the support of Lavazza, that famous Italian coffee. Another hard-working heiress born into a legendary family, Francesca Lavazza, great-grandaughter of founder Luigi Lavazza, was on hand for the opening. Lavazza was established in Turin in 1895, three years before Peggy Guggenheim was born.

Francesca said, "Peggy Guggenheim not only left an indelible mark on Twentieth Century culture, but also changed the role of women in the art world: a woman who said of herself, 'I am not an art collector. I am a museum,' testifying to how individual passion can be a revolutionary factor for society as a whole."

Peggy Guggenheim: The Last Dogaressa runs from September 21, 2019 until January 27, 2020. Go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog



1 comment:

  1. Karole Vail, the curator of The Last Dogaressa, continues the legacy of her renowned grandmother, Peggy Guggenheim, by celebrating her Venetian life.

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