Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

A documentary directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

peggy_guggenheim_art_addict_stillGrowing up in the nineteen sixties, as a young woman, I thought that I didn’t want to be like my mother who was a stay at home housewife and mother.  I wanted to strike off and find a career, and establish myself as a woman of substance apart from my birth family.

I think that Peggy Guggenheim wanted to do the same thing, and in this movie I tried to find common ground with her, but there are so many differences.  The money for one thing.  There was a lot of money between the Guggenheims and the Seligmans.   Peggy’s father and mother both came from established wealth (mining and banking).  When her father was lost on the Titanic, and it turned out he had squandered a good deal of the family fortune, it became a little more difficult to say that Peggy had it as easy as her cousins whose millions were intact.  But still, her $450,000 inheritance was not small change in the beginning of the twentieth century.   This seed money she used to begin to collect art.

In the movie, the story of Peggy Guggenheim’s personal life and its various stumbles keeps getting in the way of her accomplishments as a gallery owner and museum founder.  The main thing we need to know about her is that her taste in art influenced the twentieth century notion of what modernism is.  But there is all of this other business, about her lovers, and her marriages, and her sad sisters and children, and divorces, and disastrous marriage to Max Ernst.

At one point she wrote a tell all memoir about the men she slept with.  Perhaps the bad decisions Peggy Guggenheim made stem from a combination of her miserable childhood and her bad luck.  The film mixes it all up, her personal life, with her professional accomplishments.  I consider these some of her accomplishments:  she supported Jackson Pollock when he was starting out;  she helped several European artists escape Europe just as the Nazis were on the rise in the early 1940s, and had had their “Degenerate Art” show in Munich;  she found excellent advisors who made lists of works to buy which she did.  In other words, she put her family money to good use.

And in her galleries, museums, and collections, she created a hunger for modern art some of which is still preserved in a lovely Palazzo in Venice where she spent her final days.

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About Patricia Markert

Moviegoer.
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