Thursday, July 16, 2009

Savoir Faire in Venice

Well, Savoir Faire followers, vacation has been booked and I am ecstatic to say that we will be heading for la dolce vita in Italy and then onto Turkey for a couple of days in September. Espresso on the Via Venetto in Rome, maybe a negroni or two in Florence and of course the Guggenheim in Venice await.

What visit to Venice would be complete without a visit to the Guggenheim, Peggy Guggenheim’s palazzo on a canal turned into a museum? Poor Peggy, the expatriate American millionairess who amassed one of the world's foremost collections of modern art, certainly had a life full of ups and downs and plenty of savoir faire. A father who died on the Titanic, a luxurious and stifled upbringing in New York she threw herself into wild Bohemian life in Europe, and went through husbands and lovers as if there was no tomorrow. She was a patron of the arts and companion to the avant-garde whom the rest of society had shunned.

She collaborated with some of the most famous names of the day, in artistic ventures, or either married them or took them as lovers. Jean Cocteau,Djuna Barnes, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp,Constantin Brancussi,Kandinsky,Antoine Pevsner, Henry Moore, Henri Laurens, Alexander Calder, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, George Braque were just a few who crossed her path. And from all of these she bought and bought and bought amassing as I said before one of the most significant collections of modern art of the 20th century.

Over the years she had had several attempts at opening galleries in London and New York, however mostly these were commercial failures, as her taste was too avant-garde for the general public. One of her Galleries in New York featured some wonderful plywood chairs designed especially for the space and two of these are in the current Surrealist exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

The failure of her commercial ventures didn’t stop her from collecting, and eventually she had decided in the 1960’s to exhibit what she had already owned in her Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal in Venice.

She ruled over Venice like an Empress and the public were her court. She took on an almost majestic appearance in her gondolier with her trademark bizarre sunglasses and her dogs around her. On her death she donated her large home and her collection to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. With true savoir faire she is buried next to the museum with her beloved dogs.

“If Venice sinks, the collection should be preserved somewhere in the vicinity of Venice.”


  1. The man riding the horse sculpture with giant erection always makes me smile!

  2. You always put together such well thought out posts. I just love reading them.

    Have a fantastic time! I'm sure you'll come back refreshed with plenty to report.

  3. Jill, When put like that, any man on a horse with a giant errection would make anyone smile. Cannot wait to see it!

    THL, Many thanks, I hope to have lots to report

  4. Sounds like a great vacation. Have a wonderful time!

  5. David, have a marvelous time. Leave little souvenirs for me to find when I make my Italy jaunt the following month, in October. I miss it so - I used to go twice a year, once in March for my birthday, and again in September. In 2008, I made my birthday trip, but canceled September; this year, I had to forgo the birthday visit, but am anxiously awaiting October. This will be my 24th or 25th visit (I've lost count), and I find it magical each and every time...

  6. ooohh...this sounds like such a fabulous trip!
    I envy you

    I need to put a similar clause in my will:
    "If New Orleans sinks, the collection should be preserved somewhere in the the gulf maybe.

  7. TJB- 24 or 25 times wow! I bet you know all the nooks and crannies, so I will hace to think hard when leaving souvenirs for you. I will one for you at Harry's or maybe at Peggy's place.

    Jason- I think you should do a codicil to your will straight away. We can't have the fate of the collection left to pure chance


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