But I know what I like by Richard Jones

Peggy

A look at Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (M)…

WE wouldn’t know nearly as much about the life of celebrated art collector and innovator Peggy Guggenheim unless long-lost audiotapes had been tracked down.

Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland discovered the 1970s tapes Peggy had made with her official biographer and the collector’s succinct recollections are vital to her life story.

For instance, she revealed she’d had seven abortions during a long and lusty life, not only discovering artists and their works but also sleeping with them.

These latter disclosures in her memoirs discomfited many when Peggy named names. There was a tryst with noted playwright Samuel Becket when the pair spent four days in bed in Paris.

Constantin Brancusi was also among her many lovers while Marcel Duchamp became her art adviser.

It all started when Peggy inherited $US450,000 when she was 21 just before 1920. The money allowed her to live an independent life in Europe.

How she smuggled her many, now priceless, avant-garde works of art out of Paris in 1940 under the Nazi’s noses was a real achievement.

There’s actual file shots of the artworks, in crates, being loaded onto a trans-Atlantic freight ship.

Setting up anew in New York Peggy helped discover Jackson Pollock. She describes herself as the “midwife of abstract expressionism.”

When she first met Pollock he was working as a carpenter and only splashing paint on his massive canvases at weekends.

During this period Peggy married sculptor-cum-artist Max Ernst. He was clearly very pleased about his own body shape – to use a current over-used word, a narcissist – and there’s film clips of him painting shirtless in his studio.

When Peggy bought one of the latest fur coats for her winter wardrobe, Max wanted one, too. She had to shell out for Max’s coat.

Later in her astonishing career, Peggy displayed the collection of 326 priceless works in a half-built palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal.

But one fact related by a friend is illuminating. Peggy’s Venetian soirees weren’t attended by the glitterati for the quality of the food and wine.

This gentleman categorises Peggy’s wine as ‘frightful’.

It seems while she didn’t mind splashing out on artwork, and had more than a dozen small dogs as pets during her Italian sojourn, the catering budget was a tight one. 

And one other personal fact is fascinating. Peggy flicked her tongue in and out of her mouth, lizard-like, when speaking – apparently unaware of this habit.

 

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