Peggy Guggenheim Foundation papers
Guggenheim, Peggy, 1898-1979
Palazzo Venier del Leoni.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Peggy Guggenheim (PG) was born Marguerite Guggenheim on August 26, 1898 in New York City. The daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim and Florette Seligman, both children of wealthy families, PG described her early childhood as "unhappy," though she was brought up surrounded by luxury. Following the death of her father in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, PG made her debut in 1916 and began a series of ill-suited jobs, which included assisting new officers in buying their uniforms, working as a receptionist in a dentist's office, and serving as a bookshop assistant.
After moving to Europe, PG married Laurence Vail in 1922, whom she described as the "King of Bohemia," and with whom she had two children, Michael Cedric Sindbad and Pegeen. The marriage ended in divorce in 1930, at which time she moved to Paris and began familiarizing herself with important figures in the avant-garde, spending time with Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Andre Masson, Isadora Duncan and Emma Goldman.
In the spring of 1937, at the suggestion off her friend Peggy Waldman, PG began making plans to open a gallery. In preparation, PG turned to Duchamp for guidance. Duchamp advised her to focus on both abstract and surrealist Modern art. When PG confessed her lack of knowledge about the Modern art world, Duchamp took it upon himself to educate her and introduce her to the some of the most significant artists working at the time, including Jean Cocteau and Jean Arp. PG then moved to London where, on January 24, 1938, she opened the gallery Guggenheim Jeune at 30 Cork Street.
At Guggenheim Jeune PG showed works by a number of artists, including Duchamp, Cocteau, Arp, Wassily Kandinsky, Constantin Brancusi, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Antoine Pevsner, Sophie Arp, Henri Laurens, Alexander Calder and Henry Moore. On several occasions PG was forced to confront customs officials as to whether or not the objects she was bringing into the country were in fact works of art. In one case, after James B. Manson, the director of the Tate Gallery, declared that the artworks were not art objects but "manufactured goods," the matter was taken to the House of Commons and judged in favor of PG.
The Guggenheim Jeune soon became a meeting place for surrealist and abstract artists and writers. During this time, PG engaged in affairs with Samuel Beckett and Yves Tanguy, spending much of her free time in Yew Tree Cottage. But despite its successful reputation, the Guggenheim Jeune continued to lose money, and PG closed the gallery in 1939.
Still residing in London, PG resolved to open a museum that served a similar function as the Museum of Modern Art did in Paris, to educate the public about the main movements in Modern art. It was during this time that PG began collecting "a picture a day," amassing a collection that she would later transport to America in cases filled with linens marked "household goods." PG enlisted the art critic Herbert Read to assist her in the museum project, but the advent of World War II forced her to abandon the idea and she returned to America with her ex-husband Vail, her children and her then lover, the surrealist artist Max Ernst.
In the winter of 1942, after having married Ernst and taken up residence in New York City, PG began searching for an appropriate space in which to display her collection. At 30 West 57th Street, PG found two tailor's workshops that she decided to convert into a gallery. She contacted Frederick Kiesler, an architect and former member of De Stijl who was then teaching at Columbia University. Extending well beyond the initial budget proposed to PG, Kiesler transformed the space using "L and T units," so that paintings would be exhibited without frames, sculptures would be placed on cantilevers, and furniture could be turned over to serve as chairs or as stands. The result was a totally new approach to exhibiting art.
On October 20, 1942, PG opened the renovated space to the public, naming the new gallery Art of This Century. At the opening she wore one earring designed by Tanguy and one designed by Calder to show her neutrality between abstract and surrealist art. The event attracted people throughout the art world, and the gallery became a sensation in the press. Some critics compared the space to an amusement park, others declared it an innovation. At Art of This Century, PG showed many of the artists that she had at the Guggenheim Jeune in London as well as a host of new artists, including Ernst, Jean Hélion, Djuna Barnes, Frida Kahlo, Robert Motherwell, Hans Richter, David Hare, Theo van Doesburg, and Jackson Pollack. On May 31, 1947, Art of This Century closed its doors, and PG began her attempts to get a visa to return to Europe.
After moving to Venice, PG's collection was featured in the 1948 Venice Biennale. At this time, La Collezionne Peggy Guggenheim was the most comprehensive survey of abstract and Surrealist art exhibited in Italy up to this point. In addition, the exhibition included several American artists, such as William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, giving them their first non-US exhibition. In December of the same year, PG purchased an unfinished 18th-century palazzo named Venier del Leoni on the Grand Canal, and proceeded to install in it her vast collection, opening the space to the public several days a week in 1949. She remained a high profile figure in the art world, though she made no significant art purchase after 1973.
In 1959, PG established the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation. The foundation, created for tax purposes, became the legal owner of the PG Collection, in charge of all administration and operations functions. Several years later, in 1974, PG left the collection as a bequest to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation on the condition that it remain in the palazzo. Following this transfer, in 1977, the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation was dissolved and the collection was officially brought under the administration of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Unofficial terms of the agreement allowed PG retained the right to live at the palazzo and administer the collection until her death.
PG died on December 23, 1979 in a hospital outside of Venice.
|1942-1947||Art of This Century|
|1949-1979||Palazzo Venier del Leoni|
Scope and Content Note
The Peggy Guggenheim Foundation papers span the years 1939-1979 and document Peggy Guggenheim's involvement with avant-garde, surrealist, and abstract art. They include both public and private documentation of PG's galleries and exhibition spaces, her involvement with living artists, and her active collecting of works of art. The collection consists of scrapbooks complied by PG, account's reports for the Art of This Century Gallery, and bills of sale.
The bulk of the collection consists of press clippings, collected by PG and mounted into scrapbooks. These clippings, interspersed with invitations and photographs, include an international selection of newspapers resulting in articles in English or Italian. They document the opening and closing of her galleries, reviews of exhibitions, and articles on her collection. Also included are several articles on PG's personal life and the intermingling of fashion and art.
In addition to the press clippings, two scrapbooks contain exhibition catalogs and invites from exhibitions at Guggenheim Jeune and Art of This Century. Highlights includes announcements for exhibitions including Mark Rothko (catalog currently in Venice), Jackson Pollack, 31 women, Clyfford Still (catalog currently in Venice), Hans Richter (catalog currently in Venice), Theo van Doesburg. Yves Tanguy, and Jean Coctaeu. In 2003, several of the exhibition catalogs were removed from the scrapbooks for the Peggy and Kiesler: The Collector and the Visionary exhibition held at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy (October 10, 2003January 9, 2005). Currently, all removed exhibition catalogs have remained with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Photocopies of the covers of removed catalogs were placed in scrapbooks to document items pulled.
Bills of sale include originals and copies. These bills are an incomplete set of receipts for works of art PG purchased.
The papers were transferred to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation on June 12, 1975.
|000509||Art of this Century: Account Reports (restricted) (5 folders)||1942-1946|
|000508||Bills of Sale (restricted) (4 folders)||undated, 1950-1979|
|000508||First Scrapbook: Press Clippings (copy)||1936|
|000510||Guggenheim Jeune and Art of This Century: Exhibition Announcements (tan with blue stars hard bound)||1938-1942|
|000501||London, New York, Venice: Press Clippings (tan hard bound)||1938-1953|
|000509||Art of this Century: Press Clippings (copies)||1942-1945|
|000510||Art of this Century: Exhibition Announcements (tan with blue diamonds hard bound)||1942-1947|
|000505||Art of this Century (includes Guggenheim Jeune and Venice): Press Clippings, Exhibition Catalogs, and Photographs (wood)||1942-1951|
|000503||Venice Biennale: Press Clippings and Photographs (red with print hard bound)||1948-1949|
|000504||Peggy Guggenheim and Collection: Press Clippings, Exhibition Catalogs, and Photographs (brown leather hard bound)||1951-1957|
|000508||Peggy Guggenheim and Collection: Press Clippings (tan with print hard bound)||1957-1959|
|000500||Peggy Guggenheim and Collection: Press Clippings (tan with print hard bound)||1960-1962|
|000500||Peggy Guggenheim and Collection: Press Clippings (tan with print hard bound)||1962-1966|
|000507||Peggy Guggenheim Collection at the Tate: Exhibition Photographs (black vinyl)||1965|
|000508||Venice: Press Clippings (blue spiral bound)||1966-1967, 1978|
|000509||"America 1969": Press Clippings and Invitations (black leather binder)||1969|
|000502||Peggy Guggenheim and Collection: Press Clippings (tan with print hard bound)||1973-1975|
|000506||Venice: Press Clippings (tan with print hard bound)||1975-1979|
|000508||Peggy Guggenheim: Press Clippings (orange spiral bound)||1979|