At the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Updates: Peggy, the biog | The unfinished palazzo (excerpt)

On our first day in Venice we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, located in her home of 30 years, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal. Peggy’s father went down in the Titanic, leaving her a tidy fortune allowing her to pursue the life of an arty libertine until her death in 1979 at the age of 81. Most of the collection was created between 1938 and 1946, with works embracing everything from cubism to surrealism and abstract expressionism. Wife of Max Ernst, lover of Samuel Beckett, Peggy was also fond of lhasa apsos and winged sunglasses.

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There’s something about a curated collection that sets it apart from a standard art gallery, and not just because of the stories it can tell. As well as a small room of paintings by Peggy’s daughter Pegeen there were some splendid Jackson Pollocks (another of Peggy’s alleged lovers) and an olive tree in the garden, a present from Yoko Ono.

Piazza (1947-48), a Giacometti bronze inevitably caught the eye:

However closely we may inspect the figures we must know that they are as if seen at a distance. The four male figurines are positioned in such a way that they would not meet even if they were magically to proceed. This need not be taken to indicate urban alienation, but simply the nature of a public place of intersecting passage.

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A temporary exhibition was dedicated to Azimut/h, a gallery and review founded in 1959 by Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. Manzoni, who died at the age of 29, spent some time in Denmark, specifically in Herning, where he was invited twice by local art aficionado and shirt manufacturer Aage Damgaard.

The HEART Museum owns the world’s largest public collection of Manzoni’s works, many of which question the nature of the art object and use alternative materials. His Socle du monde, a pedestal placed upside down, turns the world into a work of art with its base in Herning, while in Venice you could buy one of his more infamous works and try to get a good shot of a fluffy ball on a pedestal:

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