When I first went to Venice I was 16 years old and the thing that is most marked in my memory from a trip to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection - is a shocking phallic horse statue in the courtyard. Of course I got the teenage giggles. But Peggy's collection of 20th century art is worthy of much more serious contemplation. From Picasso to Pollock, her Italian gallery bursts with vital modern art. She ran galleries in London and New York before settling in Venice and in 1943 was the first ever to hold a show of entirely female artists. But without Peggy's dramatic escape from wartime Europe, taking hundreds of paintings with her to New York, many of the most significant works of modern art could have been lost to us forever.
A decade after my encounter with Marino's horse, I discovered 'Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict' a short film about Peggy's life and finally recognised her impressive legacy. Known as the 'black sheep' of the wider Guggenheim family (founders of the Guggenheim Museum) Peggy was rebellious and brave and completely unafraid to follow her own instincts in selecting unusual art - not a sheep at all, she set the trends and recognised genius long before other critics. She buried herself deep in avant garde circles and unearthed talent wherever she travelled. Peggy's passion is evident in the film, as is her eccentric yet determined character and it makes for an inspiring watch. Her art collection was formed mostly between the wars is a true time-capsule of surreal and abstract art. Thanks to Peggy and her legacy these innovative artworks continue to be open to public viewing at the third and final gallery she established herself in Venice. Don't ask 16 year old me - it really is worth a visit and for sofa escapists, I recommend the documentary too.
Peggy Guggeheim relaxing in Venice
Marino Marani, The Angel of the City