Thursday, February 20, 2020

Venice: Peggy Guggenheim Collection – Migrating Objects

“I found myself the proud possessor of 12 fantastic artifacts, consisting of masks and sculptures from New Guinea, the Belgian Congo, the French Sudan, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and New Ireland”
Peggy Guggenheim
Out of this Century

Migrating Objects
Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas in the
Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Peggy Guggenheim challenged boundaries as a patron and collector and is celebrated for her groundbreaking European and American modern art collection. At Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, until June 14, Migrating Objects: Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection focuses on a lesser-known, but crucial episode in Guggenheim’s collecting: her turn in the 1950s and ’60s to works created by artists in Africa, Oceania, and the indigenous Americas. The exhibition represents a remarkable occasion to view 35 rarely seen non-Western artworks Guggenheim collected, shown at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection as a cohesive whole for the first time. This exhibition presents Guggenheim’s African, Oceanic, and indigenous Americas objects in groupings privileging their original contexts or, alternately, in dialogue with European works from her collection by avant-garde artists who appropriated ideas from cultures beyond Europe’s borders. These opposing modes of display enable an exploration of the flawed narratives that Western culture imposed on objects of this kind.

Soul Canoewuramon – Mid-20th century – detail
Unrecorded Asmat artists – Papua – Western New Guinea – Indonesia

The Curators

Migrating Objects, was conceived by Peggy Guggenheim Collection Director Karole P.B. Vail together with the project’s Curatorial Advisory Committee—comprising Christa Clarke, R. Tripp Evans, Ellen McBreen, and Fanny Wonu Vey with Vivien Greene.

Ellen McBreen, Karole P.B.Vail, Fanny Wonu Vey and Vivien Greene

Louis Marcoussis – L’Habitue – The Regular – 1920
Headress - Ago Egungun probably first half of 20th century
workshop of Oniyide Adugbologe – ca. 1875-1949; Yoruba artist Abeokuta - Nigeria

Photo Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Gift, Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia, 2005 – courtesy Peggy Guggenheim Collection

“I could not afford to buy anything that I wanted, so I turned to another field…I began buying pre-Columbian and primitive art. In the next few weeks I found myself the proud possessor of 12 fantastic artifacts, consisting of masks and sculptures from New Guinea, the Belgian Congo, the French Sudan, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and New Ireland. It reminded me, in reverse, of the days when Max [Ernst] had left our home…and removed his treasures one by one from the walls. Now they all seemed to be returning.”
Guggenheim, Out of This Century: Confessions of an Art Addict.
New York: Andre Deutsch, 1979

In 1959, Peggy Guggenheim purchased a group of non-Western objects from the New York dealer Julius Carlebach, with works ranging from a Baga D’mba headdress from Guinea to a malangan maramarua funerary carving from New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.  Guggenheim had already shown interest in such works thanks in particular to her brief marriage to the artist Max Ernst, who in the 1940s obsessively collected pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and especially Native American art. Ernst’s collection was installed alongside works made by the couple’s artist friends in the house they shared in New York. Later she also bought examples in Italy from Franco Monti and Paolo Barozzi. Her dealers must have guided Guggenheim’s selections to some extent. But she followed her own vision when installing these objects in her Venetian palazzo, alongside paintings by Pablo Picasso and Ernst, among others. 

Venice - Peggy Guggenheim - The barchessa - Palazzo Venier dei Leoni late 1960s
Headdress - Ago Egungun - probably first half of 20th century, workshop of Oniyide Adugbologe - ca. 1875–1949 - Yoruba artist Abeokuta, Nigeria 

Mythologizing the Dogon

Seated male figure – probably first half 20th century
Unrecorded Dogon artist – N’duleri region – Mali
Lidded container - probably first half 20th century
Unrecorded Dogon artist– Mali
Vessel – aduno koro possibly16th-early 20th century
Unrecorded Dogon artist – Mali

Fanny Wonu Veys 
curator - Oceania, National Museum of World Cultures - The Netherlands

D’mba headdress and Pablo Picasso

Peggy Guggenheim began collecting African art in 1959, just prior to the “Year of Africa” —when seventeen African nations declared their independence. But most collectors’ preferences were unrelated to the works’ contemporary African contexts. By selecting this Baga D’mba headdress from Guinea and the Kota reliquary guardian figure from Gabon, Guggenheim followed tastes that the artistic avant-garde had established in the early 1900s. These two African traditions were closely associated with Pablo Picasso’s art and likely played a role in her selection. In Half-Length Portrait of a Man in a Striped Jersey, Picasso embedded two sharp pyramids into the oval normally used to represent a head. Once he self-servingly insisted that the African sculptures in his studio were “more witnesses than models,” but their formal and conceptual impact on his work is undeniable.

D’mba headdress - probably first half 20th century
Unrecorded Baga artist – Guinea
Pablo Picasso - Half-Length Portrait of a Man in a Striped Jersey 1939

Ellen McBreen
associate professor - History of Art - Wheaton College - Mass.


“Primitive Art is a mine of information . . . but to understand and appreciate it, it is more important to look at it than to learn the history of primitive peoples, their religions and social customs.”
Henry Moore

Sepik Carving and the Sculpture of Henry Moore

When, in the 1930s, Henry Moore began to utilize a Surrealist language in his representations of the human body, he borrowed from the extraordinary forms of Sepik works and other Oceanic sculpture he saw at London’s British Museum and in publications. He wrote that “Primitive Art is a mine of information . . . but to understand and appreciate it, it is more important to look at it than to learn the history of primitive peoples, their religions and social customs.” Moore’s response was typical of many artists who thought that ignoring the objects’ original meanings allowed for a deeper understanding of their purely visual complexities.

Flute figure – late 19th- early 20th century
unrecorded Chambri artist – East Sepik Province – Papua New Guinea
Male figure – Kadibon or Kandimbog – early 20th century
Unrecorded artist – Murik Lake – East Sepik Province – Papua New Guinea
Suspension hook – early 20th century
Unrecorded Western latmul artist - East Sepik Province – Papua New Guinea
Henry Moore – Three Standing Figures – 1953

Bark mask – first half 20th century
Undrecorded Cubeo artist – Rio Uaupes region – Northern Amazon

Chimu poncho and Tancredi Parmeggiani

More than half a millennium, and sharply differing goals, separate Italian artist Tancredi Parmeggiani’s Transparencies of the Elements - 1957 from the Chimu feather poncho Guggenheim collected in 1959. One could easily imagine that Guggenheim’s first encounter with the poncho summoned the equally vibrant, feather-like strokes of Tancredi’s painting style, inspiring her to hang them together. Both compositions, moreover, reveal or suggest the intersecting warp and weft of a woven textile. Despite the stark contrast in the pieces’ techniques—the painstaking construction of the feather poncho versus the joyful spontaneity of crayon and gouache—it is this very juxtaposition that likely appealed to Guggenheim.

Poncho with camelids – 900-1470 CE
Unrecorded Chimu artists – Kingdom of Chimor – Northern Peru
Tancredi Parmiggiani - Transparencies of the Elements – 1957

Tatanua mask – malangan – early 20th century
Unrecorded Madak artist – Northern New Ireland – Papua New Guinea

Mask – angbai or nyanbai – probably first half 20th century
Unredorded Toma or Loma artist – Guinea

Female Ci Wara headdress – probably first half 20th century unrecorded Bamana artist – Segou region – Mali
Male Ci Wara headdress – probably first half 20th century 
unrecorded Bamana artist – Segou region – Mali

“This exhibition represents an exceptional opportunity for the UNHCR to expand and ameliorate the general public’s perception of refugees. They are not only desperate people seeking protection, but above all individuals forced to flee their homelands bringing with them a rich combination of culture, talent, and dreams to be shared with the countries that welcome them. As these objects of art from apparently distant places dialogue with Western works, they remind us that ideas migrate with people and through them foster exchanges of equal dignity and value. There is a third alternative to rejection and assimilation, and it is the most enlightened one: that of a society in which, every day, cultures and languages are multiple and hybrid. Even now, our ways of living are mutually influential, provoking an invaluable wealth of viewpoints."
Carlotta Sami
Senior Public Information Officer - UNHCR

UNHCR’s Carlotta Sami and Barbara Molinario

Migrating Objects: Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, has received the patronage of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

Equestrian figure – probably first half of the 20th century
unrecorded Senufo artist – Cote d’Ivoire

Figure of a horsesyon – probably mid-20th century
unrecorded Senufo artist – Cote d’Ivoire

Senufo Two-Faced Helmet Mask – wanyugo and Alberto Giacometti

Only in the mid-twentieth century were Senufo helmet masks taken from the Cote d’Ivoire and sold on the European market. Thus, this specific sculpture type would not have been familiar to Alberto Giacometti when he created Woman with her Throat Cut in 1932. However, the wanyugo exemplifies the fantastical themes that he and other Surrealists coopted for their own artistic purposes. Peggy Guggenheim likely echoed such associations when she later combined these two sculptures in her own, often ahistorical, installations.

Two-faced helmet mask – wanyugo – probably mid-20th century
Unrecorded Senufo artist – cote d’Ivoire
Alberto Giacometti – Woman with her Throat Cut – Donna Sgozzata 1932 – cast 1940

Luciano Pensabene and Grazina Subelyte

Three-panel mummy mask – 900-1470 CE
Unrecorded Chimu artist – Kingdom of Chimor – Northern Peru

Nayarit Marriage Pair with Infant and Henry Moore - Family Group

The kinship between Henry Moore’s Family Group - ca. 1944 - and this ancient West Mexican marriage pair with infant extends well beyond the works’ shared subjects. Beginning in the 1920s, Moore developed what would become a lifelong fascination with ancient Mexican sculpture. The tubular torsos, burnished surface, and conjoined bodies of the Nayarit couple display the very hallmarks that influenced Moore’s work.

Marriage pair with infant – 300BCE-400CE
Unrecorded Nayarit artist – Ixtlan del Rio culture – ancient West Mexico
Hnery Moore – Family Group – 1944 – cast 1956

Imagining the Pacific

Oceanic cultures fascinated the Surrealists, who were drawn to their art with its dreamlike subjects and processes of transformation. Max Ernst, for example, appropriated selected Oceanic - as well as Native American - themes in his work. Peggy Guggenheim was introduced to some of these ideas while married to Ernst and living with his collection in their New York home. In 1942 Ernst gave Guggenheim his painting, The Antipope - 1941-42 - as thanks for her years of support and help in escaping Europe during World War II. She called the painting Mystic Marriage, since it dramatized their complicated relationship in a disquieting pictorial fable. She is likely evoked by the hybrid horse-headed warrior in red. In pursuit of imagery untethered from reality, the Surrealists were profoundly influenced by these objects because of their resistance to fixed states. They believed that mechanized Western society had tragically distanced itself from the imaginative ethos present in Oceanic work. By mining the cultures of the Pacific islands, the Surrealists sought to reconnect with longed for, nonvisible realms of experience.

Ancestor figure – miamba maira – mid 20th century
Unrecorded Wosera artist – Southern Abelam Bibmagum or Bogmuken – village – East Sepik Province – Papua New Guinea
Element of ceremonial house – mid-20th century
Unrecorded Abelam or Boiken artist – Maprik – East Sepik Province – Papua New Guinea
Ancestor figure – 1900-1960
Unrecorded Sawos artist – Yamok Village - East Sepik Province – Papua New Guinea

In 1942 Ernst gave Guggenheim his painting, The Antipope - 1941-42 - as thanks for her years of support and help in escaping Europe during World War II. She called the painting Mystic Marriage, since it dramatized their complicated relationship in a disquieting pictorial fable. She is likely evoked by the hybrid horse-headed warrior in red.

Max Ernst – The Antipope – December 1941 – March 1942

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Venice: Peggy Guggenheim Collection – The Last Dogaressa

  Photo Tony Vaccaro / Tony Vaccaro Archives

“It is always assumed that Venice is the ideal place for a honeymoon. This is a grave error. 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.”
Peggy Guggenheim,
Out of This Century - Confessions of an Art Addict

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Last Dogaressa

The exhibition The Last Dogaressa, until January 27, is curated by Karole P. B. Vail with Grazina Subelyte, it celebrates Peggy Guggenheim’s Venetian life, shedding light on how she significantly continued to add works of art to her collection after her departure from New York, having closed her museum-gallery Art of This Century - 1942–47 - and having made Venice her home in 1948.
Peggy Guggenheim - Venice – 1968

The exhibition presents a selection of paintings, sculptures and works of paper that Guggenheim acquired from the late 1940s to 1979, the year in which she passed away, while simultaneously highlighting the milestone events and exhibitions that she organized and participated in. Focusing on the last three decades of Guggenheim’s acquisitions, the exhibition offers an unparalleled opportunity to revisit and re-contextualize renowned masterpieces. These comprise Rene Magritte’s Empire of Light, alongside rarely exhibited works by artists such as Rene Bro, Gwyther Irwin and Grace Hartigan, as well as the Japanese-born Kenzo Okada and Tomonori Toyofuku, thus conveying Guggenheim’s interest in art beyond Europe and the United States.
Jackson Pollock – Two – 1943-45

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Last Dogaressa

A selection of Guggenheim’s scrapbooks are on display to the public for the first time. These are fascinating albums in which she meticulously collected newspaper articles, photographs, and ephemera covering the various periods of her life revealing new exciting episodes. 
Peggy Guggenheim Scrapbook – 1948-49

In 1948, Guggenheim was invited to exhibit her collection at the 24th Venice Biennale: it was the first presentation of her collection in Europe after the closure of her New York gallery, Art of This Century.  The exhibition opens with a tribute to this seminal event: the works of art exhibited in the Greek pavilion were at the time the most contemporary exhibited at the Biennale, most notably those by the young American Abstract Expressionists, which created a sensation. In addition, the exhibition marked Jackson Pollock’s debut in Europe and the first presentation of a new generation of artists who, in the following years, would dominate the international art scene. The same works by Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still exhibited in 1948 open this show. Important works by Pollock are on view, including Alchemy and Enchanted Forest, thus paying tribute to his first solo exhibition in Europe, which was organized by Guggenheim in 1950 in the Ala Napoleonica in Piazza San Marco, Venice
Jackson Pollock – Alchemy - 1947
This is perhaps the first painting Pollock made with the revolutionary technique of pouring and dripping paint on the canvas placed on the floor.

Curators Grazina Subelyte and Karole P. B. Vail

David Hare - Moon Cage - Windows of Moons – 1951 ca.

With a reference to the first show Guggenheim organized at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in 1949, marking this year its 70th anniversary:  an exhibition of contemporary sculpture, with works such as Jean Arp’s Head and Shell the founding work of the collection, Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space and Alberto Giacometti’s Piazza.
Jean Arp – Head and Shell – Tete et Coquille – 1933 ca.

  Photograph courtesy Peggy Guggenheim Collection – copyright Grace Hartigan estate –
collezione Peggy Guggenheim - Venezia

“I want an art that is not ‘abstract’ and not ‘realistic’ – I cannot describe the look of this art, but I think I know it when I see it.
Grace Hartignan

Grace Hartigan – Ireland – 1958
Oil on canvas - 200x271 cm

The Italians

After her arrival in Venice in 1947, Peggy Guggenheim commenced a new phase of collecting as she began supporting and acquiring works by local Italian artists. Her first acquaintances were the Venetian painters Giuseppe Santomaso and Emilio Vedova. In the post–World War II period, Vedova became one of the principal Italian proponents of Art Informel abstraction. Politically engaged, during the war he took part in the Italian resistance movement, often using his art to express his views. Image of Time – Barrier1951 - was born out of his investment in moral and social issues. Guggenheim saw in Vedova a rising star of the European avant-garde and acquired the painting when the artist was in his late thirties.
Emilio Vedova – Image of Time – Barrier – 1951

Photograph courtesy Peggy Guggenheim Collection – copyright Piero Dorazio Siae 2019 –
collezione Peggy Guggenheim – Venezia

Piero Dorazio – Unitas – 1965
oil on canvas 45,8 x 76,5cm


In 1951, the American artist William Congdon introduced Guggenheim to Tancredi Parmeggiani, a painter from Feltre. She quickly championed the Italian artist, giving him a monthly stipend and a studio space in the basement of her palazzo, and promoting and organizing exhibitions of his work, including a solo show in her home in 1954. Tancredi was a member of the Spazialismo movement, founded by Lucio Fontana in the 1940s, and developed his personal poetics of infinite space through the exploration of the relationships between the painted mark, color, and light, as in Composition.
Tancredi Parmeggiani – Composition – 1957

“I find myself in nature and nature in myself.”
Kenzo Okada

In Above the White, shapes and colors float across the surface of the canvas, evoking what was traditionally called a “landscape of the mind.” Although the composition is markedly abstract, it was likely inspired by nature, as Okada noted.
Kenzo Okada – Above the White – 1960

 British Art
In the 1950s, Peggy Guggenheim focused on collecting British art. She purchased sculptures by Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, and Lynn Chadwick, who had great success when they were introduced to the international art world at the 1952 Venice Biennale, as part of a new generation of young British artists. On this occasion, a sculpture by Henry Moore, whose work Guggenheim also collected, was installed at the entrance of the British pavilion, positioning him as the forefather of his younger peers. These sculptors united in their engagement with the figure, whether human or animal, and several abandoned the traditional bronze-casting method in favor of forging and welding.
Henry Moore
Family Group – 1944 ca. – Reclining Figure – 1938
Stringed Object – Head – 1938

Through the 1960s, Guggenheim added paintings to her holdings, such as Study for Chimpanzee by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon, February 1956 – menhir - by Ben Nicholson, and Organic Form by Graham Sutherland, among others. Bacon’s and Sutherland’s compositions depict figures set against plain-colored grounds: a chimpanzee and an organic form reminiscent of an altar respectively.
Graham Sutherland – Organic Form – 1962-68

Op and Kinetic Art

The exhibition also includes highlights of works of Op and Kinetic art, which piqued Guggenheim’s interest in the 1960s, by Marina Apollonio, Alberto Biasi, Martha Boto, Franco Costalonga, Heinz Mack, Manfredo Massironi, and Victor Vasarely. Op artists made use of geometric forms and structures, industrial materials to create optical effects and perceptive illusions; they also exploited the transparent and reflective properties of materials such as aluminium, plastic, and glass. Their objects had a deliberate de-personalized look, in contrast to the emotional visual idiom of Abstract Expressionism.
Marina Apollonio – Relief N. 505 – 1968 ca.
Heinz Mack – The Joy of Calvin – 1963

“When I was walking through the Campo Manin, I noticed a very exciting painting in the window of a little art gallery. My first reaction was to take it for a Pollock. I went in and met the artist … Though his work was not bought by anyone except me for years, he is one of the best British painters.”
Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim’s interest in British art led her to acquire works by British artists Gwyther Irwin and by Scottish painter Alan Davie, in particular, she admired and encouraged Davie’s talent from the time that she discovered his work at his exhibition at the Galleria Sandri in Venice in 1948.
Exhibition View
Alan Davie – The Golden Drummer Boy No. 2 - 1962

In the 1960s, Guggenheim purchased Shelter by the Austrian painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and Autumn at Courgeron by the French painter Rene Bro. The two artists shared a studio in a country manor that Bro had restored in Courgeron, a small town in Normandy, France. This is where he likely made Autumn at Courgeron, a landscape populated by trees, painted in his typically simple, child-like style. For Hundertwasser, Bro’s landscapes were otherworldly, and his “round, radiant trees [had] souls and an inner life.”
Rene Bro – Autumn at Courgeron – 1960


Simultaneously on display at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni are works Guggenheim purchased between 1938, when she opened her first gallery in London, Guggenheim Jeune, and 1947, when she moved to Venice. The opportunity to see her collection almost in its entirety, including masterpieces such as the first Box in a Valise - Boite-en-Valise - created by Marcel Duchamp especially for Guggenheim in 1941, is not to be missed.  The work contains one ‘original’ and sixty-nine miniature reproductions of famous works by the multifaceted and irreverent French-American artist. It is rarely on view to the public due to its fragility, and it is now possible to admire it as it has returned to Venice after an important study and conservation campaign.
Marcel Duchamp - Box in a Valise - Boite-en-Valise – 1941

Marcel Duchamp - Box in a Valise - Boite-en-Valise – 1941


Vivien Greene and Francesca Lavazza

Dr. Vivien M. Greene is co-author with Karole P. B. Vail of the book, The Last Dogaressa, and Francesca Lavazza is Corporate Image Manager of Lavazza coffee, who is one of the institutional patrons of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Tomonori Toyofuku – Drifting No. 2 - 1959

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