The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is currently hosting an excellent exhibition that celebrates the Venetian life of its legendary founder, who passed away forty years ago. The show focuses on Peggy’s collecting after 1948, once she closed her museum/gallery “Art of This Century” (1942-47) in New York and moved to Venice, where she lived until her death in 1979.
Over 60 works are displayed, including paintings, sculptures and works on paper, as well as some of Peggy’s private scrapbooks in which she meticulously collected newspaper articles, photographs and ephemera relating to various periods of her life – on view to the public for the very first time.
The exhibition opens with a section dedicated to the 1948 Venice Biennale, when Peggy first presented her collection in Europe and affirmed her presence in the Floating City. This is followed by a room dedicated to the American Expressionist Jackson Pollock – one of the many artists who benefitted significantly from Guggenheim patronage – who received his first solo show at “Art of This Century” in New York in 1943, and his first European one-man exhibition at Venice’s Museo Correr in 1950, both organised by Peggy.
Next comes an homage to the Exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture, the first show that Peggy organised at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in 1949, followed by a monumental painting by American artist Grace Hartigan, the only female Abstract Expressionist artist in the collection. In subsequent rooms, the exhibition explores Peggy’s support of Venetian artists active from the late 1940s, such as Emilio Vedova and Giuseppe Santomaso, as well as her interest in British painting and sculpture of the 1950s and ‘60s. After a section dedicated to Optical (Op) and Kinetic art of the 1960s, the show concludes with a room focussing on works by the CoBrA group of avant-garde artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Co-curated by Karole Vail, who is not only the director of the museum but also Peggy’s own granddaughter, “The Last Dogaressa” is a highly personal and enlightening tribute to the iconic collector who contributed so much to the story of modern art.