The new documentary Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (trailer) tells the story of Guggenheim’s remarkable role in preserving and presenting modern art. The niece of Solomon Guggenheim, whose New York City museum is a fixture in the contemporary art scene, she immersed herself in art while living in Paris and London in the 1920s and 1930s.
The film was directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (interview), whose first award-winning film focused on another larger-than-life woman, Diana Vreeland. In Guggenheim, the filmmaker saw a woman who was courageous, strong, and had the “ability to believe in underdogs. These artists were not mainstream, yet she had the vision to believe in them and create a new place in history for them and for herself.”
In 1937, she opened the Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London, which showcased artists such as Jean Cocteau and Vasily Kandinsky. As World War II began in Europe, she purchased treasured works by artists such as Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí and Piet Mondrian, and as the war escalated, she arranged for over 150 paintings and sculpture to be shipped as “household goods” to New York, thereby saving seminal works from being confiscated or destroyed.
She conducted notorious love affairs with numerous artists, including Max Ernst, whom she married briefly after helping him leave Europe. Ernst has one of the best quips in the film saying, “I had a Guggenheim, and it wasn’t a fellowship!”
The documentary uses extensive interviews with art historians and curators to describe how Guggenheim became the protector and promoter of postwar art. As The Hollywood Reporter’s John Defore says, when she settled down in Venice, she would “throw great parties, tend to dozens of dogs, and watch the world grasp the scope of what she’d done.” Her Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal is now home of The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of the most important showcases in Italy for the works of early 20th century American and European artists.
While the documentary has been making the film festival circuit, reportedly it will have a limited distribution in theaters beginning November 6.
UPDATE, 11/13: Los Angeles Times Credits Guggenheim’s perspicacity!
This review is by Tucson-based guest reviewer Jodi Goalstone, who writes the highly entertaining blog Going Yard, Offbeat Baseball Musings.