Narrator, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, only lightly questions whether Guggenheim’s self-professed label “nymphomaniac” and continuous wild affairs with artists, was what allowed her to successfully “collect” lovers and art simultaneously. Rather, she seems to contend, that Guggenheim’s unique eye for spotting great art within her bohemian clan was key to her collective success; so what if those who painted it might also happen to have been her lovers?
Parted into four chronological sections, this film takes us back first of all to Guggenheim’s childhood and the heart-breaking time which saw her Father die tragically in the sinking of the famed Titanic. This would not prove the only time that life was unkind to Guggenheim and her continuous suffering is offered up as reason for her erratic behaviour.
Her kookiness though, wins our hearts. Particularly in the second section where moving images, interviews with artists and archive interview recordings of Guggenheim's genteel voice itself make up the roaring twenties; the exciting time of Peggy's prime, spent in Paris among the creative artists that she would later "collect".
"Liberal bohemian"; a stereotype easy to admire, but as the artists reminisce, Peggy was the best type of "liberal bohemian", because she simply did not care what others thought, in so far that she published memoirs scandalising the art world with the fine details of all of her love affairs. Narcissist? Definitely, but the easy flow of Vreeland's black and white frames and light hearted technique seems to help us find such flaws humorous.
Among funding and discovering countless artists, including the great Jackson Pollock, we are told, Guggenheim also saved hundreds of what would later be famous paintings from Nazi destruction during World War II (following Hitler’s denouncement of modern art), spotting her opportunity to buy them up cheap during the Paris invasion.
Indeed, her bold decision to defy both the status quo of “popular” modern art, preferring her own taste, and that of the movement out of Paris in such a dangerous climate, made her a pioneer of the modern art which we now hold very dear. This documentary certainly provokes the notion that Peggy Guggenheim was a controversial character, admitting that her "addiction" to art and artists alike may have influenced her collections. Watching this though, you'll feel that Vreeland promotes Guggenheim's enigmatic character as the trait underlying the success that she deserved. Her sexuality was overwhelmingly a part of that character.
So, so what? Wassily Kandinsky, Salvador Dali... Such huge names can only have been founded by a free thinking, charismatic woman, whose reputation does the art world proud.
Peggy Guggenheim is now showing at FACT. Click here to book tickets.