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The Art Story Homepage Art Influencers Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim

American Collector and Gallerist

Peggy Guggenheim Photo

Born: August 26, 1898 - New York

Died: December 23, 1979 - Venice, Italy

"I dedicated myself to my collection. I made it my life's work. I am not an art collector. I am a museum."

Summary of Peggy Guggenheim

Born into relative wealth and into a well-known and powerful family, Peggy Guggenheim harbored an independent streak that led her to create one of the most important collections of modern European and American art. Relying on advisors, including the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp and the anarchist poet and critic Herbert Read, Guggenheim quickly amassed paintings by the most avant-garde European artists before the outbreak of World War II. Her collecting habits continued in the U.S. when she gave the burgeoning Abstract Expressionists the opportunity to exhibit in her Art of This Century Gallery alongside their European precursors.

Her love of art and creativity bolstered her own eccentric lifestyle in New York and later in Venice, where her collection is permanently housed. Her dedicated patronage of particular artists, including Jackson Pollock, stood in sharp contrast to later collectors who were looking mostly for investment opportunities. Guggenheim was one of a handful of women, including Betty Parsons and Katherine Dreier, who helped turn the art world's attention to modern art and, more specifically, Abstract Expressionism.

Key Ideas

While armed with the help of knowledgeable advisors, Guggenheim's collecting was based on her felt reaction to the work. She bought what she loved, what drew her in, what was provocative. A bohemian at heart, Guggenheim saw her collection as a creative endeavor and one she wanted to share with the larger public.
A fast learner, Guggenheim was forward thinking with the exhibitions staged at her various galleries. Giving Wassily Kandinsky his first one person show in London, she broadened the appeal of Modern art in Britain, and she was daring enough to give the young Abstract Expressionists some of their first high-level exposure in New York and subsequently in Italy.
Her New York gallery, The Art of This Century, was one of a kind with its innovative exhibition practices and gallery spaces. It became a sort of laboratory not only for new, avant-garde art but also for how the viewer physically interacted with works of art and created relationships with them.
In many ways, Guggenheim, like Museum of Modern Art director Alfred Barr, was pivotal in getting so-called "degenerate" art safely out of Europe on the eve of World War II as well as encouraging European artists to wait the war out in the United States.

Biography

Peggy Guggenheim Photo

Childhood

Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim was born on August 26, 1898 in New York into great wealth due to the family's fortune in the mining and smelting industries. Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim and his brother Solomon R. Guggenheim were power brokers. They had five other brothers. Florette Seligman, her mother, came from a family known for both its eccentricities and its social status, as her father was Joseph Seligman, a banker who became the leading national financier in the Civil War era.


Peggy Guggenheim Biography Continues Peggy Guggenheim Biography Continues

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