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Bequesthed by a victim of the Titanic
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a remarkable place tucked behind a high wall off a quiet street, it is the third most visited museum in the city. It was founded by one of the most colourful of Venice’s expat residents, whose father went down in the Titanic, leaving her with $460,000.
The money came in useful as she set out busily to satisfy her ravenous appetite for men and art. Peggy may have hated her bulbous nose – the result of a botched job by a Cincinnati plastic surgeon – but that didn’t stop her running up a list of lovers that reads like a who’s who of contemporary culture, including Samuel Beckett, Yves Tanguy, Roland Penrose (who liked to tie her up) and Max Ernst, to whom she was briefly married. When asked how many husbands she had had, Peggy replied: ‘Do you mean mine, or other people’s?’ Ms Guggenheim took the same voracious approach to art as to men.
The turned up in Venice in 1949 looking for a home for her already sizable collection. A short-sighted curator at London’s Tate Gallery had described her growing pile of surrealist and modernist works as ‘non-art’. Venice, still struggling to win back the tourists after World War II, was less finicky, and Peggy found a perfect, eccentric base in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, a truncated 18th-century Grand Canal palazzo; the building had from 1910-24 been the home of another lady determined to make her mark on the city, the Marchesa Luisa Casati, who liked to parade through piazza San Marco with a pair of cheetahs on diamond-studded leashes.T
There are big European names in the collection, including Picasso, Duchamp, Brancusi, Giacometti and Max Ernst, plus a few Americans such as Calder and Jackson Pollock, whose career was jump-started by Peggy.
This museum, a must for admirers of contemporary art, got its start with the private collection of heiress Peggy Guggenheim. Today, it has some of the most important and groundbreaking works in modern art history, including works by De Chirico, Duchamp, Miro’, Picasso, Max Ernst, Gorky, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Calder.Walks of Italy Award-winning Tour Guide
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Dorsoduro 701, fondamenta Venier dei Leoni, Venice
Phone: 041 520 6288
Open Hours: 10am-6pm Wed-Mon
Price: Cost money