To live in Venice or even to visit it means that you fall in love with the city itself. There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else." This well-known sentiment, from an essay by Peggy Guggenheim in a 1962 book by Michelangelo Muraro (Invitation to Venice), expresses the American collector's feelings about Venice, where, after a nomadic life between Europe and the United States, she decided to make her home in 1948. A year later she acquired Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, on the Grand Canal, where she both lived and exhibited her collection of modern art, opening the palazzo to the public each summer from 1951 to 1979. At Easter 1980, not long after Peggy Guggenheim's death (23 December 1979), Palazzo Venier opened to the public for the first time under the auspices of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
Thirty years on, the museum celebrates Peggy Guggenheim with twelve photographs, dating from 1958, by celebrated Bolognese photographer Nino Migliori, which document Peggy Guggenheim, her house and her art the way they were then. "The house was different from anything I had ever experienced," recalls Migliori, "…it was the perfect expression of Peggy's own determined and volatile personality, enigmatic but predictable. The works of art were not hung for decoration; they were an integral part of a suggestive and emotive ambience." The photographs will be on view to the public from April 7 through July 26.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with other surprises for its visitors. From April onwards, through December 2010, each Friday from 4-6pm, 'Pay What You Wish' will invite visitors to the museum to enter without purchasing a ticket, but by making instead a donation in an amount of their own choice, "what you wish", in support of the museum's operating expenses. This is practiced already by New York's major museums, such as MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The novelty in Italy of 'Pay What You Wish' at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection matches Peggy Guggenheim's own spirit of generosity and enterprise. Secondly, the museum welcomes visitors who can demonstrate with ID that they are thirty years of age to a complimentary visit to the museum, to its exhibitions and to Peggy Guggenheim's collection of modern masters, from Picasso and Magritte to Kandinsky and Pollock. Thirdly, students of the video-maker course at the Istituto Europeo di Design - IED are creating a 'viral' video that captures the museum's spirit of innovation and originality.
Meanwhile, changes to the installation of the permanent collection offer a rare opportunity to see works rarely displayed: Marcel Duchamp's Boîte en-valise, created for Peggy Guggenheim in 1941 is shown together with the pittura metafisica of Giorgio de Chirico and paintings by Mario Sironi. Less well known artists make appearances, such as Humphrey Jennings, documentary film-maker and founding member of British Surrealism, Richard Oelze, German Surrealist, and Bice Lazzari, Venetian painter of the avant-garde. An early work by André Masson reminds us that he introduced Miró to the art of Klee in the early 1920s, and a late work testifies to his considerable influence on young painters in New York in the early 1940s. Victor Brauner, Rumanian painter and friend of Peggy Guggenheim, is represented by three works, including an allegorical self-portrait, The Surrealist, in which the artist appears as the Juggler of the Tarot cards, and a work influenced by the 'pataphysics' of Alfred Jarry, titled Téléventré. After a long absence, Jean Arp's Head and Shell, the first work to enter Peggy Guggenheim's collection, is once more on display, together with works by British artists Henry Moore, Alan Davie and Ben Nicholson.
Philip Rylands, Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, summarized the spirit of this anniversary: "The museum looks at the next thirty years with optimism, and thanks all those who have generously helped us through the first thirty, such as the Regione del Veneto, the members of our Advisory Board, the Banca del Gottardo, now BSI in Lugano, and Intrapresæ Collezione Guggenheim. Above all we are indebted to Peggy Guggenheim's genius, and to the supreme quality of her collection of great modern art