I was reading in the New York Times about the current controversy between Peggy Guggenheim’s heirs, and the Guggenheim Museum’s administration of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/arts/design/fight-over-guggenheims-legacy-roils-her-palazzo.html?smid=fb-share&smv1&_r=0, and I feel like making a brief comment about a place I really loved.
The museum is in the beautiful palazzo Guggenheim had built on the Grand Canal, and where she lived for 3 decades. We first visited in 1972. Peggy Guggenheim was in residence but opened her collection on Tuesday and Thursday from 2-4 (let’s just say…I actually don’t remember the hours, but there weren’t many). We went to see the Max Ernst paintings, a Kandinsky or two, some other surrealist work. The work was all in the basement of the palazzo and you had to wind through the house to get there…in the dining room a bowl of fruit and a pile of keys, a stack of newspapers visible. It was exciting and grand, and offered us a much needed relief after 2 months of looking at Renaissance art. (We had “Madonna fatigue.”) This is what the garden looked like in 1972 as a few Americans grouped around waiting for the open hours. (We aren’t in this one…)
In the years following 1972 Roger led 10 student groups to Venice, each time with a stop in the welcome oasis of modernism…to visit my favorite Kandinsky…to see 20th century art in a 20th century setting. After Peggy Guggenheim’s death in 1979 we watched the furniture disappear, a huge glass addition built on the rear of the palazzo housing marginal art from Long Island and other American spots by artists not known to the general public. Then a gift shop appeared with the usual stuff. Then slowly the art started to disappear…the Kandinsky was gone on our last visit in 2005. Here are a couple of our “moments” in the garden over the years…
And though we know that things change, and must, that the press of crowds is ever greater, still the new donors names shouldn’t be on on the front of the palazzo to be seen from the Grand Canal, the original collection of Guggenheim’s should sensibly still be in the building, with extraneous stuff kept to a minimum. That place was an iconic 20th century place…(“Art of This [sic] Century”) and had a meaning and a karma all its own.