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USA 2015
Directed by
Lisa Immordino Vreeland
96 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Synopsis: A portrait of one of the most significant patrons and collectors of 20th century art.

Using a similar approach to her debut documentary about her grandmother-in-law, Diana Vreeland The Eye Has to Travel, Lisa Immordino Vreeland combines archival footage, interviews and audio tapes of Guggenheim to paint a portrait of the private and public life of one of the most important background figures in the history of modernist painting and sculpture.

Growing up in the first two decades of the 20th century, Peggy Guggenheim was somewhat of a rebel amongst her wealthy, conservative New York Jewish family and it was the la vie boheme of Paris in the ’20s that she found her spiritual home.  Although not an artist herself she became a passionate proselytizer for the Parisian avant-garde, the Surrealists in particular, and when she opened the Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London she effectively introduced Britain to Modern Art. When WWII broke out she cannily went about amassing a collection of what the Nazis referred to as “degenerate” art and shipped the works to New York where she opened her gallery, Art of This Century, which also became the first gallery to show the works of the then emerging Abstract Expressionists. Finally she moved to Venice where her collection now resides as part of the Solomon Guggenheim Bequest.

Vreeland balances this historical material with the story of a seemingly not particularly happy life, one with a more-than-fair share of family tragedies and a sexual history that, like her extraordinary collection, seems to have been largely a compensation for a sense of personal inadequacy.  The consequence of the latter her money buffered her from and allowed her a truly impressive roll-call of friends and lovers, from Marcel Duchamp to Samuel Beckett.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is a film that will largely appeal to those familiar with the history of Modernism.  Precisely because of her diligence, Vreeland tends to skim the surface, the result being little more than a roll-call of names and faces with an illustrative image attached.  The use of the audio tapes is also problematic as, given their amateur quality, they are often quite hard to follow and as Guggenheim reveals nothing of particular interest they are of little value to the overall project

In one small footnote for film buffs, Robert De Niro appears talking about his parents, both of whom were painters exhibited by Guggenheim




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