February 01, 2016

Modern Art in Historic Venice

In a city as old as Venice, modern art may not be on your sightseeing radar. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is therefore an unexpected treat. In 1948, the American heiress succumbed to the charms of La Serenissima and purchased a villa on the Grand Canal. As the patron of many notable artists of the 20th century, Peggy filled Palazzo Venier dei Leoni with avant-garde paintings and sculpture. In 1951, she opened her collection to the public.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni

A Lion (Leoni)

I began my tour of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection with a stroll through the Nasher Sculpture Garden where abstract forms by Henry Moore, Max Ernst (whom she married) and many others rest beneath the trees of the villa’s shady garden.

Nasher Sculpture Garden

In the Streets of Athens
Max Ernst (1960)
Marino Marini (1945)
Jean Arp (1946)
Two Figures
Luciano Minguzzi (1950-52)
Oval With Points
Henry Moore (1968-69)
Fritz Koenig (1957)

Peggy’s ashes are buried in the garden, along with her fourteen Lhasa Apso dogs.

Peggy Guggenheim's Grave

Peggy's Beloved Dogs

The villa’s airy rooms are filled with colourful canvasses by such celebrated artists as Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Eyes in the Heat (1946) and The Moon Woman (1942)
Jackson Pollock
On the Beach
Pablo Picasso (1937)

The Studio
Pablo Picasso (1928)

Birth of Liquid Desires
Salvador Dali (1931-32)

After viewing the collection I stepped out onto the sunny terrace where an equestrian sculpture by Marino Marini, The Angel of the City, shares the sweeping Grand Canal views with the museum's visitors.

The Angel of the City
Marino Marini

Two pieces from the Schulhof Collection were displayed on the terrace:  a large sandstone block, Untitled, by Anish Kapoor and a striking red steel structure, The Cow, by Alexander Calder.

View of Grand Canal towards the Accademia Bridge
Untitled, Anish Kapoor (1993)

View of Grand Canal towards San Marco
Untitled, Anish Kapoor and The Cow, Alexander Calder (1971)

Standing there on the sunny terrace I could imagine Peggy entertaining her celebrity guests, like Paul Newman or Yoko Ono. I'd love to see the documentary about her fascinating life, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015. Here’s a link to the trailer.

The museum is located in the Dorsoduro district of Venice between the Accademia and Salute vaporetto stops. It can also be reached on foot via the Accademia Bridge or by traghetto (gondola ferry) at the Santa Maria del Giglio crossing.

Santa Maria del Giglio Traghetto

For more information on the museum and its art, visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection website.

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