Sunday, December 20, 2015


Peggy Guggenheim was a remarkable woman. Born to the monied American industrialists in the late nineteenth century, her father died on the Titanic and left her a rich woman, although not as rich as her family.  She left for Paris and plunged herself into the bohemian world of artists. She married a sculptor who gave her two children but was physically abusive and adulterous. They divorced in 1928 and she went on to the great flowering of her life, where she took many many lovers, and began to buy very very ground-breaking art. She was an early champion of Duchamp and Man Ray and married Max Ernst.  The war delayed her plans for a permanent museum in Paris but after world war two she settled in Venice and amassed the collection that now defines her - containing important works by Miro, Brancusi, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Magritte and most importantly bringing US artists to Europe, not least in supporting Jackson Pollock.  What's even more astonishing is that she did all this with no formal artistic education or support:  just good taste, a willingness to plunge in and back herself.  The she loved art and artists and had the means to indulge her passion for clever, unique conversation and lovers. And to this day one of the most delightful things that one and do is to walk around her former Palazzo in Venice and see the artworks in situ and get a feel for the life that she led.

This new documentary is an absolute delight! Lisa Immordino Vreeland brilliantly combines documentary photos, vintage interviews, stills of artworks and talking head interviews with her relatives and famous art critics.  But most importantly we get the voice of Peggy herself in a long-lost audio interview she gave just before she died. This enables us to get a great sense of the woman:  her personal travails, her insecurities, her authentic and deep love of art and artists.  We hear how she was seen as something of a dilettante at first, and maybe still by some of the sniffier set. But one cannot deny the quality of the collection she amassed. More importantly she seems to have been a quite fearless woman in some respects, despite her insecurities. She not only lived a life unconstrained by petty bourgeois constraints but when the crunch came she was instrumental not just in buying up all the great art that the Louvre thought not fit for saving when the Nazis entered Paris, but she got the artists themselves out of Paris to safety.  Her second marriage to Max Ernst a case in point.  It is for such courage that Guggenheim is a great woman rather than just a great collector and patron of the arts, and this film is a worthwhile and handsomely made testament to that. 

PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT has a running time of 96 minutes and is rated 15.  The film played Tribeca 2015 and is currently on release in the UK. It opens in Denmark on January 21st, in Italy on March 14th and in Sweden on April 1st. 

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