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Leisure galleries: Peggy Guggenheim, Art of this Century

(Added 9 October 2006)

Gallery for abstract and Cubist Art at Peggy Guggenheim’s New-York museum-gallery “Art of This Century”, 1942
Photo: Berenice Abbott
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

excerpt: Confessions of an Art Addict, Peggy Guggenheim, 1960

“Kiesler was a little man about five feet tall, with a Napoleonic complex. He was an unrecognized genius, and I gave him a chance, after he had been in America for fifteen years, to do something really sensational. He told me that I would not be known to posterity for my collection, but for the way he presented it in his revolutionary setting.

Kiesler really created a wonderful gallery- very theatrical and extremely original. If the pictures suffered from the fact that their setting was too spectacular and took away people’s attention from them, it was at least a marvellous décor and created a terrific stir.

The only condition I made was that the pictures should be unframed. Otherwise Kiesler had carte blanche. I had expected that he would insert the pictures into the walls. I was quite wrong: his ideas were much more original. In th e Surrealist gallery he put curved walls made of South American gum wood. The unframed paintings, mounted on baseball bats, which could be titled at any angle, protruded about a foot from the walls. Each one had its own spotlight.” (p.99-100, ECCO edition, 1979)

“In the abstract and cubist gallery where I had my desk, near the entrance, I was perpetually flooded in a strong fluorescent light. Two walls consisting of an ultra-marine canvas curtain like a circus tent, attached to the ceiling and floor like by strings, curved arounf the room in various sweeps. The floor was painted turquoise. The paintings, which were also hung on strings from the ceiling, and at right angles to the walls, looked as though they were floating in space. Little triangular shelves of wood supported the sculptures, which also seemed to float in the air. ”(p.100, ECCO edition, 1979)

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is the most important museum in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century. It is located in Peggy Guggenheim’s former home, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, on the Grand Canal in Venice. Opened in 1951 by the niece of Solomon R Guggenheim, wealthy American industrialist and art collector, the museum presents Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection of 20th century art, masterpieces from the Gianni Mattioli collection, the Nasher Sculpture Garden, as well as temporary exhibitions.

Frederick Kiesler was an architect, theatre designer, artist and theoretician. He had a productive European career as a respected theatre and art exhibition designer in the 1920s, during which time he was a member of the De Stijl group. Kiesler lived in the US from 1926 until his death in the 1965. In that period he collaborated with the Surrealists, knew most of the major figures in the avant-garde art world, and developed one of the most complex and idiosyncratic aesthetic theories of his time. Correalism was the central theme of his concepts in developing these artistic disciplines: Kiesler’s theory of the endless and multidimensional correlation between the human being, the arts and the space. Kiesler’s artistic and theoretical oeuvre is regarded as one of the most important contributions to European and American Avant-Garde.

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