Who is Peggy Guggenheim?

How pleasing it would be to discover someone who artists say “breathe and lived art.”  Marguerite Guggenheim (AKA Peggy Guggenheim) was born on August 26, 1898, to a wealthy New York City Guggenheim family. She was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim who reportedly went down with the Titanic and niece to the founder of Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Solomon R Guggenheim. Peggy is recognized as an American art collector, socialite and bohemian. In other words, she was a lover of art who lived on her standards and not on what is conventionally accepted in the society. Peggy had also referred to herself as an “art addict” which makes it all the more clear why she is recognized in the art world.

Career and the War

Coming from a family dominated by business-oriented individuals, Peggy distinguished herself by moving in avant-garde circles, collecting artworks. Between 1938 and 1946, Peggy had a noted art collection in both Europe and America. He career spanned the modern era, linking the Surrealist and Dada movements with Expressionism (abstract). There was little to no distinction between her private life and career as she was married to artists twice (Laurence Vail and Max Ernst), amidst close connections and interests with other artists. Peggy had a profound taste for Surrealism.



In the late 1930s, Peggy opened her first art gallery, Guggenheim Jeune. Later on, she founded another gallery named Art of this Century, which was well received and celebrated. Peggy amassed for herself a massive collection of both Cubist and Surrealist art, during a period when those works were held in high regard. During the World War II, Peggy made efforts to save her collection by shipping them through the battleground of North Atlantic. This event was after the Musee du Louvre declined to store her collection from the war. Her efforts not only saved her but the livelihood of her artists who fled to New York. Peggy created a network of new American artists who had their first gallery shows in the ‘Art of the century.’ Some of these artists include Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still and Pollock (who Peggy sees as one her most significant achievements).


Post War Events

After the world war and her divorce from Max Ernst, Peggy closed her gallery Art of the Century in 1947. She returned to Europe and decided to live in the city of Venice, Italy, where she established herself in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal. Peggy’s art collection became one of the very few European modern art collections that promoted a good number of works by American artists. During the early 1960s, Peggy changed her focus from collecting art to exhibiting her collection. She loaned some of her collecting to European museums. In 1969, the exhibition works from the Peggy Guggenheim foundation opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collections served as a prestigious museum in the history of European and American art for the first part of the 20th century. She died in Camposampiero, Italy after a stroke.

Even after her death, Peggy Guggenheim works, and the events that occurred in her life has an impact in the collection of modern art. Till date, she is still referred to as the queen of contemporary art.

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