an afternoon with “Peggy Guggenheim: art addict”

You might remember when I was talking about having the luxury, as a freelance, of managing my own time: well, it most certainly is a true luxury BUT (and whoever lives the “freelance lifestyle” knows that’s quite a big “but”) it’s also true that is quite difficoult for a freelance to actually save some time off for him/herself. What typically happens to me, for example, is that I  work on weekends so I think “I’ll get my day off sometime during the week”: I say myself “it’s even better, because museums are going to be calm, shops won’t be crowded…”. I imagine myself walking with no rush through the city and stopping into a small bistro with my favourite magazine, reading it alone with my smoking hot black coffee. “I’ll definitely get my day off later on this week. Definitely”. It never happens.

Last week though, something caught my attention: the trailer of “Peggy Guggenheim: art addict”, the new documentary by Lisa Immordino Vreeland. It would have been available in Cinemas from 11th December and I decided that this was my moment to take an afternoon off with one of my all time heroine.

"Peggy Guggenheim: art addict" Roloff Beny / Courtesy of National Archives of Canada
Roloff Beny / Courtesy of National Archives of Canada (Roloff Beny Collection, Accession No. 1986-009, Documentary Art and Photography Division, National Archives of Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N3)

I first got in touch with Peggy when I was a little girl and I visited her Venice home: her weird Palazzo (it’s just the ground floor, on Canal Grande this is something pretty unique) was filled with any kind of artistic wonder and her love for the place still permeates any corner. I immediately got fascinated by this strong woman, willing to create her own beautiful universe in that incredible place in the world. I saw the pictures of her funny sunglasses and at first I got the idea of an happy and funny woman, but she had a rather tough life instead, studded with losses (his father to start with, sunk with the Titanic when she was only 13), war, betrayals and scepticism. The images in the film of her in her late years, a tiny white-haired woman with this shy look in her eyes, and this kind of tender vulnerability really moved me. Of course this just made me an even greater fan of her achievements: a woman able to overcome all the odds in order to pursuit her dreams, in a world where women weren’t really supposed to do what she did, and go down in history thanks to her dedication and generosity.

Peggy Guggenheim: art addict / Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice
Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

There are many ways in which Peggy is a true inspiration and I think Lisa Immordino Vreeland summarize it perfectly in this interview for Indiewire with Sydney Levine:

Already at a young age Peggy felt like there were too many rules around her and she wanted to break out. That alone was something attractive to me — the notion that she knew that she didn’t fit in to her family or her times. She lived on her own terms, a very modern approach to life. She decided to abandon her family in New York. Though she always stayed connected to them, she rarely visited New York. Instead she lived in a world without borders. She did not live by “the rules”. She believed in creating art and created herself, living on her own terms and not on those of her family.

Peggy Guggenheim: art addict / Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice
Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Also, I was very touched by something said by the end of the documentary: even though she got a gallery, Peggy’s work has never been just about selling. She donated loads of incredible pieces to museums and she really wanted (and worked!) to help artists to fully express their potential, no matter what. She also risked her own life staying in Paris during the second world war to be sure that her paintings would have safely reached New York. Her work, her collection, her life has been a restless pursuit of her dream, her love for art. As she said “it’s all about art and love”. I was touched because (even if she was pretty wealthy and this of course makes things easier) in our very “financial-based world” I think is sometimes good to hear stories like these, stories of people obsessed by dreams and dedicated enough to make them real.