Peggy Guggenheim’s Venice House

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, 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…)

Guggenheim garden

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…

Me and RiPhoto

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.



  1. A bittersweet post. Sad to hear as the Guggenheim begins to be dismantled, canabalized, commercialized so as to render it unrecognizable. John and I were there in 1976, clutching “Europe on $5 a Day” and having the highest of adventures, one of which was the somewhat breathtaking or -giving place you’ve described. Thanks for bring it back for a glimpse.

  2. oh bonnie, dave and i will never be there (nor anywhere but ‘around’) but we read this also in the NYT and your post is exciting to read/see. it’s 8:27pm thurs 8 and i’m going to coax dave to sit with me so we can both read this personal extension to the guggenheim saga. peggy guggenheim is a large character among art heroes from our love of mid century american art.

  3. Wife Peggy (not Guggenheim) and I visited the Venice Guggenheim in 2002. I recall the clean looks of the place and the garden but what has been a lasting memory, albeit fadding was a 9 x 6 inch collage by Kurt Schwitters. I contaced the gallery a while after our visit to try to procure an image to no avail. It was my introduction to Schwitters and dada collage and it simply blew me away. Unforgettable.

  4. Thanks for bringing that lovely venue for art back to mind, Bonnie. I loved the couple of hours I spent wandering there and am saddened to think that it may not be possible to share that with John should we get to Venice together.

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