The Buddenbrook’s Syndrome according to Thomas Mann was the rags to riches to shirtsleeves scenario, where the drive to continue to accumulate great wealth would diminish through succeeding generations; a waning enthusiasm for grabbing the bull by the horns. By the 1920′s the Guggenheim Brothers firm was worth $200,000,000 and they began to reflect on what to do with that pile. Solomon gambled with some very risky cards with extreme avant-garde art in which his early and somewhat eccentric Museum of Non-Objective Art was evolved into the present day Guggenheim. Solomon had gotten in on the first floor of the great vogue for abstract art. Peggy, Solomon’s niece was a bird of another stripe…
Peggy, the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim had likewise interested herself in avant-garde artists and their art. Generous, and highly impulsive, she had been gliding for some years through their Bohemian atmosphere as patron, close friend, and hostess at spectacular parties. In 1937 she decided to open a gallery in London and like her ncles before her was shrewd enough to seek out capable advisers. Marcel Duchamp helped make her gallery, named Guggenheim Jeune, a lively success in every way except financially. Then, she concluded that she would rather lose money on a museum of her own than a gallery, and engaged the critic Herbert read to be museum director.
The proximity of another Guggenheim in the sacred groves of non-objective art seemed to vex the Baroness Rebay. She dispatched a peppery note to Guggenheim Jeune, sputtering with Teutonic syntax: ” Due to the foresight of an important man( Solomon Guggenheim) since many years collecting and protecting real art, through my work and experience, the name of Guggenheim became known for great art and it is very poor taste indeed to make use of it, of our work and fame, to cheapen it to a profit.”
But Peggy Guggenheim was undaunted. When the second war interfered with her plans for a museum in London, she descended upon Paris where, with the help of a list prepared by Herbert Read, threw herself into a whirlwind purchasing campaign coming away with a smorgasbord of all the chief trends of modern art from 1910 to 1940.
After various alarums and excursions she arrived in New York complete with her collection and the surrealist painter Max Ernst, who was briefly to be her second husband. She went around to pay her respects to her uncle Solomon’s museum. “It was really a joke” she wrote later. At the Hotel Plaza, where the Solomon Guggenheim’s maintained a huge suite and a collection of their own, she visited her aunt Irene, sitting among what she had come to show: Picassos, Chagalls, Klees, Kandinskys, Braques, she urged her to burn all the Rudolf Bauer’s in her uncle Solomon’s museum and move these treasures there instead. “Shush” said her aunt, “don’t let your uncle hear that. He has invested a fortune in Bauer.”
In 1927, Peggy’s older sister Benita died in childbirth, after suffering 5 previous miscarriages. Peggy was devastated. Although she was only three years older than Peggy, Benita had been more of a mother to her than her own mother. After putting up with Lawrence’s verbal and physical abuse, Peggy had had enough. She had always considered herself to be the ugly duckling of the family. Although she had a great figure, and luxuriant chestnut hair, Peggy unf
nately also inherited the Guggenheim nose. She was incredibly self-conscious of her nose, she’d tried to have it fixed in 1920, but plastic surgery was in its infancy and her doctor realized that he couldn’t give her the nose she wanted. Peggy went through periods of her life where she was wildly promiscuous, using sex to buoy her self-confidence.
Constantly on the look-out for the a man to replace her father, Peggy had the worst luck with men.Read More:http://scandalouswoman.blogspot.ca/2009/06/art-lover-life-of-peggy-guggenheim.html
Donald Kuspit:Though some of her relatives were “nearly normal,” most were “peculiar, if not mad” – they ranged from an “uncle [who] lived on charcoal” to one who “spent all his time washing himself,” and more than a few were “inveterate gamblers” – and they were invariably at odds with one another. While the artists she supported and loved did not live on charcoal or spend all their time washing, they were inveterate aesthetic gamblers, unable to live “in any kind of harmony or peace,” and more than a little peculiar. Guggenheim’s astute descriptions of Vail (“I felt when I walked down the street with him that he might suddenly fly away”), Beckett (he had “awful crises, when he felt he was suffocating,” which had to do with his “terrible memory of life in his mother’s womb”), and Pollock (“a trapped [alcoholic] animal who should never have left Wyoming”), among other avant-garde weirdos, make this quite clear. One of her greatest “missions” was to found an artist’s colony, but it came to nothing, because of the vicious competitiveness among the artists….
…Perhaps the most important aspect of Guggenheim’s book from an art historical point of view is her account of society’s shift in attitude toward modern art. Guggenheim relates several instances when, importing various avant-garde sculptures for exhibition in her first gallery, Guggenheim Jeune in London, British Customs insisted she pay “heavy duty on them,” for they were considered “separate pieces of bronze, marble, wood, etc.” – modern art, indeed, “the entire art movement,” became “an enormous business venture.” By the late 1930s, avant-garde sculpture would never again be absurdly regarded as damaged raw material; it had become an important piece of commercial property.
Guggenheim ends on a profound note of disillusionment. After bitterly recounting “the seven tragedies of [her] life as a collector” – all economic tragedies involving her premature divestiture o major works before “the whole picture world turned into an investment market” – she states “I do not like art today. I think it has gone to hell, as a result of the financial attitude … Today is the age of collecting, not of creation.” “Some buy merely for investment, placing pictures in storage without even seeing them, phoning their gallery every day for the latest quotation, as though they were waiting to sell stock at the most advantageous moment.” No longer did artists stalk Guggenheim when they heard she was buying, for there were now buyers galore, who would pay more than she ever had.
Guggenheim is particularly jealous of Lee Krasner, who “kept all Pollock’s paintings in storage and did not even want to sell to museums,” while Guggenheim gave away eighteen Pollocks. Krasner ended up a multimillionaire while Guggenheim never had much more than the $450,000 she inherited, half of which was held in trust. Clearly, Krasner outclassed her in business acumen, but art was never a business for Guggenheim. It was a calling for which one made sacrifices. Nonetheless, one can’t help wondering if she unwittingly returned to her economic roots. The Guggenheims made their fortune by cornering the market in copper mines; Peggy Guggenheim once cornered the market in avant-garde art, before the rest of the world came along to undo her monopoly….