Page 14 - Studio International - January 1965
P. 14

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

        1  __
        2                       Giuseppe  Marchiori assesses the heroic selection  now at the Tate  Gallery

                                                                                  It  is  since  1948,  the  year  when  the  exhibition  of  her
                                                                                  collection,  in  the  Greek  pavilion  at  the  Biennale  of
                                                                                  Venice,  was  so  tremendously  successful,  that  Peggy
                                                                                  Guggenheim  has  established  her  fame  in  the  intel­
                                                                                  lectual Venetian  and  Italian  milieu.  She  is  one of  the
                                                                                  most  striking  characters  and  most essential figures  in
                                                                                  the artistic life of our town, because of her exceptional
                                                                                  personality and the world-wide network of her friend­
                                                                                  ships  and  connections.
                                                                                   In  her  house  on  the  Grand  Canal.  the  unfinished
                                                                                  Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, in the course of these sixteen
                                                                                  years, she has gathered the most important champions
                                                                                  of the artistic civilization of our time, coming from every
                                                                                  part of the world, on the occasion of the Biennale, or the
                                                                                  various Venetian festivals or on private tours, promoting
                                                                                  thus  new  links  and  new  relations  in  the  sphere  of  a
                                                                                  generally too restricted society.
                                                                                   Her  house  has  become  a  centre  of  outstanding
                                                                                  importance for meetings on a high  international  level,
                                                                                  made  possible  by  her  active  social  experience.  At
                                                                                  Palazzo  Venier,  beside  the  paintings  and  sculptures,
                                                                                  there  is  a  large  and  precious  modern  library,  amply
                                                                                  documented,  with  some  works  that  often  cannot  be
                                                                                  found  elsewhere,  particularly  on  surrealism,  which,
                                                                                 following  the  suggestions  of  Max  Ernst  and  Andre
                                                                                  Breton  added  to  Duchamp's  and  Herbert  Read's,
                                                                                 constitutes the dominant motif of her collection.
                                                                                   This is a period in the history of  modern  art, fixed in
                                                                                 virtue of  a  selection  congenial  to  Peggy's spirit,  in its
                                                                                 most typical expressions, specially by the objects which
                                                                                 were almost completely lacking at the Surrealism Show,
                                                                                 organized  last year at the  Charpentier  Gallery in  Paris.
                                                                                   It is the period between 1 930 and 1 941, from the year
                                                                                 when  Peggy  Guggenheim's  gallery  was  opened  in
                                                                                  London  to  the  year of the  inauguration  of  the  'Art of
                                                                                 this  century'  gallery  in  New  York.
                                                                                   Already before  1939 she had thought of founding in
                                                                                  London a museum of modern art, entrusted to  Herbert
                                                                                  Read's direction,  but  this  idea  could  not  be  realized
                                                                                 because of the outbreak of World War 11. But this idea of
                                                                                 hers did not die: it grew into the collection illustrated
                                                                                 in 1942 by an important catalogue, entitled 'Art of this
                                                                                 century'  like  the  gallery,  and  becoming  thus  Peggy
                                                                                 Guggenheim's  ideal  museum,  a  true  mirror  of  her
                                                                                 likings  and  her  beliefs  after  her  wonderful  meeting
                                                                                 with  modern  art.
                                                                                   In fact we must remember that before her exceptional
                                                                                 adventure  as  an  avant-garde  art  collector,  Peggy
                                                                                 studied the ancient, the  Florentine and Venetian artists
                                                                                 of  the  Renaissance.  under  the  guide  of  Berenson's
                                                                                 works.  (Her first meeting with Berenson happened just
                                                                                 at the  Biennale, in 1948, in a rather embarrassing way,
                                                                                 as  the  famous  historian,  the  humanistic  lord  of
                                                                                 I Tatti* did not care at all for modern art.)
                                                                                  Peggy's conversion was total, rash and violent owing
                                                                                 to  the  vehemence  of  her  enthusiasm  and  the  logical
                                                                                 seriousness of her mind  (two aspects of her tempera­
                                                                                 ment). Thus Peggy became a sort of symbolic character
                                                                                 of the surrealistic period, than ks also to Ernst and Tanguy,
                                                                                 in  France  and  in  the  United  States,  where  she  took
                                                                                 refuge to escape the persecutions of the Germans.
                                                                                  It  is  but  fair  to  remember  that  Peggy  bought  the
                                                                                 Bird in space  by  Brancusi,  while the  Germans were in
                                                                                 sight of  Paris and that she  succeeded in  carrying this
                                                                                 famous  work  safely  away,  together  with  many  more
                                                                                 courageously  bought  during  that  chaotic  period.
                                                                                  In New York she had the merit of revealing, in a show
                                                                                 *  His famous villa
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