For as much as I love art I didn’t even know Peggy Guggenheim existed or that she is pretty much responsible for launching the career of every artist that I like. Of course I knew about the Guggenheim museum; I figured it was some rich old fart of a man, which well it is, but let’s not get too distracted.
The film examines the life of art collector extraordinarie Peggy Guggenheim. Born into a wealthy family that was riddled with tragedy, said wealth was basically squandered away. Guggenheim bucked tradition and gallivanted around Europe with the enfant terribles of the art world. So If you’re a fan of Dadaism, Surrealism, Cubism, and the Avant Garde, stop reading and go buy the film. If you’re not yet convinced then read the next paragraph then make your choice.
What leads one to sleeping with Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, Paul Bowles, John Cage and a whole lot more? Well if your dad dies on the Titanic, your aunt sings every phrase she speaks, your uncle tries to kill your aunt with a bat and then drowns himself, your mother does everything three times, your aunt throws two of your nephews off a roof, maybe you’d shave your eyebrows, live it up, buy awesome art and become the black sheep of the family too.
Peggy has an amazing life story without the art collection and that’s what makes this documentary so riveting. She is just so darn interesting. She’s a collector and a character, but the film is fairly balanced and it never veers into slut-shaming or gossip territory. Although I am still interested in seeking out her biographies for this very reason. I want more juice!
The film uses archival footage, interviews with art curators, actors and authors, as well as recently discovered audio tapes of Guggenheim and her biographer (Jacqueline Bograd Weld) which allow for some really candid and amusing conversations. Peggy’s relationships with her children are also explored and are fairly tragic. But fear not, it’s not all name-dropping and gossip, there’s lots of footage and information about the various art galleries, events and the contributions she made to the art world.
Aside from having a treasure trove of great art, Guggenheim did some amazing things such as: buying up the artwork of artists during WW2 to preserve them, held an exhibition called “Exhibition by 31 Women” – the first to showcase all female artists, she often housed and gave money to struggling artists and she helped Max Ernst flee to America. The only negative thing is that she’s responsible for Jackson Pollock.
In times when young girls look up to people like Kim Kardashian for being naked it’s great to see stories of women who thrived in male-dominated environments and really gave something to the world. It’s ok to be a little bit of a slut, just make sure you bring great art to the world.
A documentary that belongs on the shelf of any art fan.