Peggy Guggenheim and… October in Venice

A palace in white Istrian stone nestling on the water… Its vertical development seems to have been disrupted, or rather, it has always been like this. It is Ca’ Venier dei Leoni, for everybody, Peggy Guggenheim’s palace.

Its ever-unmistakeable image has become iconic by now, just like that of its last owner, the eccentric American collector, the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim (who died on the Titanic in 1912).

Art was in her blood, her uncle, the magnate Solomon Guggenheim, was an art-lover and went down in history as the founder of the famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

In the late Thirties, Peggy had become aware of the victorious game of avant-garde, also thanks to advice from British critic Herbert Read and from Marcel Duchamp, and she began by taking one who soon became – or perhaps made him become – the greatest of American artists, under her protection: Jackson Pollock.

Peggy’s history then became common knowledge: her marriage to surrealist artist Marx Ernst, in ’41; the inauguration of her famous Art of This Century New York gallery in ’42… until 1948, a probably decisive year for her life, when she decided to move to Venice, purchasing that very palace on the Grand Canal. That same year, her collection would be exhibited for the first time in a pavilion (the Greek one) at the 24th edition of the Art Biennale.

Peggy soon fell in love with Venice. A love which she sublimated with her increasingly large but, above all, increasingly important collection, and where her figure as a talent discoverer would morph into a myth.

So, right inside what used to be her home, a major exhibition is rendering a tribute to this figure, which is celebrating a double anniversary today: 70 years since her move to her Venetian home and the first exhibition she held here, and 40 years since her demise, which took place in 1979.

Peggy Guggenheim. The last Dogaressa, strongly desired and curated by Karole Vail, Peggy Guggenheim’s granddaughter, now the director of the collection and by Gražina Subelytė, tells us the collector’s tale through a meticulous sequence of artworks.

The circuit begins with American expressionism and with those artists who would represent the great novelty of the 1948 Biennale, and who would dominate the international art scene shortly thereafter, together with Jackson Pollock.

The circuit goes on with the first contemporary sculpture exhibition which Peggy Guggenheim organised at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in September 1949, then, with the sections dedicated to the Italian artists who were active and nearby in those years. The exhibition continues with artists from the CoBrA group and contemporary British art, up to the ones from Kinetic Art and Op Art, which interested the collector in the course of the 1960s.

Naturally, the exhibitions scenario does not stop here. Venice continues to amaze with its extraordinary trends, starting from the maxi-showcase at the Biennale International Art Exhibition and the splendid exhibition on Venetian and Flemish art From Titian to Rubens, on display at Palazzo Ducale. Not only, some important anthological ones and retrospectives are flanking those. Among them, the ones dedicated to Luc Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi, Baselitz at the Galleries of the Accademia (until 6 October), Dubuffet at Palazzo Franchetti, Korzhev at Ca’ Foscari; Kounellis at Ca’ Corner della Regina; Emilio Isgrò and Thomas Stearns, at the Giorgio Cini Foundation, Adrian Ghenie at Palazzo Cini.

The shows billboard, also packed with dates, is accompanying the art ones. For Music, in addition to the intense calendar, the scenario is represented by the continuation of the Opera Season and the beginning of the Symphonic one at La Fenice Theatre; by the important Contemporary Music Festival by the Biennale (please check following billboard); by the festivals dedicated to three well-known composers: Baldassare Galuppi (in various locations), Luigi Nono (at the Giudecca) and Reynaldo Hahn (at palazzetto Bru Zane).

Among the events to be highlighted this month, there is also the Venice Fashion Week, the now established showcase dedicated to high craftsmanship in fashion (18-26 October), plus three spectacular events, differing in structure and character, but sharing passion and a scenic context: they are the Venice Hospitality Challenge, a true grand prix on water reserved for maxi-yachts; the Veleziana, a non-competitive regatta, an ideal fete for closing the sailing season, and the VeniceMarathon, the event that has joined the ranks of the most prestigious international competitions in this sector for many years now. They will all experience their peak moments against the backdrop of the Basin of Saint Mark, respectively on Saturday 19, Sunday 20 and 27 October.

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