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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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Venice: Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore - Le Stanze del Vetro – Thomas Stearns alla Venini

Venice - Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
Le Stanze del Vetro
Thomas Stearns alla Venini

The Autumn exhibition at Le Stanze del Vetro, Thomas Stearns alla Venini, until January 5, is curated by Marino Barovier, it focuses on the American artist who collaborated with the Venini glassworks in the early 1960s. After the initial period during which Stearns familiarised himself with local techniques, he started to create works of an extremely original character and unusual for Murano.
Luna – 1962
Stearns’s intention with this series was that, when lifting the vase and looking through the base, one would see the shape suggestive of the moon.

“I now fully realize the serendipity of events surrounding my work at Venini. Paolo Venini’s death had left the firm virtually bereft of a designer; my own naivete’ and eagerness to explore the medium left me in zealous experimentation; and the young Maestro Francesco ‘Checco’ Ongaro’s own efforts to prove his abilities led him to stick out his neck by collaborating with me.  This timing was just right making germane a situation of exploration and accomplishment.  We each saw it as an opportunity for ourselves… and we leapt in.”
Thomas Stearns -1989

Maestro Checco Ongaro and American artist Thomas Stearns

Thomas Stearns alla Venini

For the 31st Venice Biennale in 1962, Venini chose to exhibit, together with Tobia Scarpa’s works, six pieces by the American artist, which were rewarded with the accolades of the adjudication panel. Celebrated are his pieces Il Cappello del Doge, the Facciate di Venezia. The gold medal was proposed for them but could only be awarded to an Italian artist.
Cilindri – 1961-1962
Capello del Doge – 1961

Incalmi – 1961-1962

Ai Fili – 1961-1962

Focciata di Venezia – II Versione – 1962

Thomas Stearns alla Venini

Various series of Thomas Stearns’s glass pieces came into being, designed as an artistic impression of a sculptural kind, characterised by asymmetric and organic shapes and unusual glass techniques, rooted in the material of glass itself and with singular colour schemes.
Sentinella di Venezia - 1962

Thomas Stearns alla Venini

Stearns was also interested in cold finishing techniques and in the lighting sector, as artistic expression as well as technical research.

Illuminazione – 1961-1962
Doge’s Table Lamp for signing decrees, lamp with opaline glass light diffuser and external part in smoke-coloured transparent glass finished with thin horizontal incisions. Support structure and metallic finishing in bronze-plated brass.

Ai Fili - 1962

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