Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
Lisa Immordino Vreeland constructs a fitfully fabulous film about the titular collector
Eccentric heiress Peggy Guggenheim has long been due a documentary about her life. Her modern art collection remains Venice’s most visited gallery – no mean feat in a city that is itself a marvel. Not blessed with beauty and unfavoured in a legendary family (her father Benjamin Guggenheim went down with the Titanic), she may have been privileged but her life was often less than charmed.
Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland rams this otherwise fairly conventional documentary with glamour and sadness meaning, content-wise, there is never a dull moment. Talking heads and photographs fill us in on Peggy’s strengths and weaknesses; accusations of narcissism and egotism are unweighted, with the film favouring instead how Guggenheim wangled art world connections to amass an unequalled collection, featuring works of Pollock, Mondrian, Braque, Picasso, Picabia, Klee and many others. Immordino Vreeland cuts this rich tale into slices, each of a defined era in Guggenheim’s life using a trove of images of art, artists, galleries, social scenes and soirees.
That Man Ray had a Brooklyn accent and that the work of Robert De Niro’s parents was shown in Guggenheim’s New York gallery are only two of the documentary’s tasty morsels. But what generates a real sense of intimacy and credibility are Guggenheim’s recollections in her own words. Recorded a few years before her death in 1979, these audio rediscoveries by biographer Jacqueline B Weld allow us hear the collector’s restrained yet hasty tones telling of tragedies and affairs as if they were always cut-and-dried, and as we’re transported to this other time and place we gain a greater understanding of this complex personality.
Amongst her finest achievements was that Guggenheim risked personal safety to save art and artists during World War II. Her acumen left the world with a lasting landmark, but if Guggenheim’s life had been told as fiction, no one would believe it.
Selected release from Fri 11 Dec.