Sunday, March 20, 2016

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Peggy Guggenheim was an odd bird and thankfully so. She didn't fit in and never wanted to. Her father, who earned riches in the mining industry, died on the Titanic. Peggy had a nervous breakdown at nineteen and did not like her mother, but she went on to become one of the most provocative and serious art collectors of the 20th century.

In "Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict" by filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland, one gets the flavor of the eccentric powder-keg who never held her tongue and had the bravery to serve bad food at art parties.

Guggenheim first gained attention by being a muse for Man Ray in the 20s. In Paris she was swept up by Bohemian cafe society, most importantly the Dadaists. She met Andre Breton and the surrealist painter Max Ernst, not to mention Marcel Duchamp. After a violent marriage with Dadaist sculptor Laurence Vail, she dated the gifted war hero Ferrar Holms, but she also had affairs with apparently hundreds of men, many of whom were artists, Samuel Beckett and Giacometti among them.

Peggy Guggenheim had the idea for a bookstore or a gallery. She decided on a gallery---it was cheaper. Peggy was the first to have a showing of children's art in her gallery. Her daughter Peggeen, who was a very striking and original painter, was featured in the show. Her son, Sindbad wanted nothing to do with art.

Peggy was one of the first to champion and push Jackson Pollock and she is seen by many to be the connecting point between Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.  What comes through most is Guggenheim's joie de vivre, and her choice of art as a very sacred belief system, stronger than any religion, which aided her through many darknesses.

Even the Gestapo couldn't stop her.  Other pitfalls came: her daughter Pegeen, died of a drug overdose. Still, modern art with all its fierce iconoclasm, luckily sustained her.

The film, though a bit wordy with art-speak, is colorful and breezy and does a thorough job in capturing this quirky but sophisticated art siren. Many give their glib opinion of Peggy, among them Picasso biographer John Richardson and the author Edmund White. Actor Robert De Niro relate the story of his attending Guggenheim's exhibitions and her museum in Venice. After all, both his mom and dad were accomplished Abstract painters.

In watching "Peggy Guggenheim"  there is no need to be an art lover. This is simply a portrait of a woman in her element. It is Pop and comic, informative and light, showing an electrically-charged woman, galvanized by sex as well as paint, who was as striking in her behavior as her seemingly infinite  Lhasa Apsos or infamous nose-job.

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