Old News: Peggy Guggenheim



Friday is the 52nd anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim building. In considering this New York landmark, we are reminded of our most desired career of days past: patron(ess) of the arts. Think about it—who would da Vinci or Michelangelo have been without Lorenzo de’ Medici; Rubens without Marie de’ Medici; Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse or Picasso without Henri-Louis-Ambroise Vollard? Starving characters in La Bohème, most likely. Unfortunately, the current economic climate is somewhat hindering our art patronage ambitions (damn you, Standard and Poor credit rating!). In a moment of tristesse for who we might have discovered, we turn to a December 1979 interview with American art patroness par excellence, Peggy Guggenheim. Our favorite part is when interviewer Mario Amaya lists all of Peggy’s literary lovers—my, oh my, Ms. Guggenheim!

Peggy Guggenheim is one of the most amazing, amusing and courageous figures in Modern Art. Much married, with an impressive string of lovers, she began collecting surrealist works in 1938 and by the time she opened her unusual gallery, Art of This Century, on 57th street in 1941, she had amassed one of the most important contemporary collections in the western world. Apart from collecting, she “discovered” and promoted American arists in the Forties such as Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and other Abstract Expressionists who change the history of modern art. Miss Guggenheim now lives in Venice in the Palazzo Veneir dei Leoni where her magnificent collection of art is opened to the public this summer. She recently gave it to the Guggenheim Museum who will guard it intact after her death.
Her book of memoirs, Out of This Century, subtitled “Confessions of an Art Addict” (Universe, New York, $17.50,) appears this month. Interview asked Mario Amaya, ex-director of the Chrysler Museum and American editor of Connoisseur, to speak to Miss Guggenheim by telephone: New York to Venice.
MARIO AMAYA: Peggy dear, it’s Mario. I’m calling from New York.
AMAYA: I did enjoy the book so much. I finished reading it just yesterday.
GUGGENHEIM: Oh, that’s wonderful.