Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Peggy Guggenheim - Art Addict
"Clips from Man Ray's L'├ętoile de mer with Kiki de Montparnasse and the famous Salvador Dali dream sequence from Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound illuminate her passion." | Photo: Courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Never before heard audiotapes, recorded by Peggy Guggenheim's biographer Jacqueline B Weld, who was present at the screening at the Guggenheim Museum where I saw the film, link the episodes of her adventurous life in Peggy Guggenheim's own voice. Other voices, on and off camera, explain the condescension the famous art collector faced during her life. "Because of her lack of beauty, she could never make it as a siren," a familiar tenor goes, and it is offered as a reason why she opened galleries instead.

Lisa Immordino Vreeland - whose previous film Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel also concerned a woman considered eccentric by many - begins with Guggenheim's childhood and tales of her "aunts and uncles, famously off their rocker" and her father's death on the Titanic when Peggy was 13.

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Her first marriage, two children, seven abortions and affairs from Samuel Beckett to Brancusi are touched upon - as are the fates of her two sisters. Benita, very much beloved by Peggy, died in childbirth and Hazel was present when her two children (the boys were four-and-a-half years old and fourteen months old), fell from the 13th floor of a building.

The "Awakening in Paris" during the Twenties and Thirties brings Peggy in contact with the who's who of Dada. Meeting Man Ray ("he never lost his Brooklyn accent"), Jean Cocteau, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein became the education for Peggy, who never went to college. The best of 20th century art flashes on the screen while friends and experts talk about the woman and her life.

Clips from Man Ray's L'├ętoile de mer with Kiki de Montparnasse and the famous Salvador Dali dream sequence from Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound illuminate her passion. Her art galleries in London, then New York, and finally her wonderful museum in Venice, would not have been so filled with treasures without all the personal connections she made throughout the years.

Art dealer to the stars, Larry Gagosian, says about Peggy, whose "food was the worst in Venice," that "she was her greatest creation" and Robert De Niro points rather proudly to the fact that both his mother and his father were exhibited in Peggy's gallery in New York. "So refreshing," calls Marina Abramovic the woman who didn't hide her affairs and desires but flaunted them and Arne Glimcher, of Pace Gallery, admits that he found her attractive. Especially in her museum in Venice the legacy lives on of the woman who some say "at heart was a little girl." One with a lot of influence.

"I don't know what I would have done without him," she says about her number one art advisor, Marcel Duchamp. Mondrian convinced her of Pollock's genius. She married "beautiful Max Ernst," gave little Lucian Freud his first showing at her Children Exhibition together with her daughter Pegeen, and bought paintings by Braque, Picasso, Picabia and Klee in 1939, when she got a good price and the artists needed the money. Pegeen, who killed herself at age 42 after many many previous suicide attempts is called by her mother in the audio recording " an unhappy girl, terribly neurotic".

Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2015
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Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict packshot
Portrait of the art collector.
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Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland

Starring: Peggy Guggenheim, Marina Abramovic

Year: 2015

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US, UK, Italy


Tribeca 2015

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