Sunday, August 26, 2012

Peggy Guggenheim's Gift

Our first full day in Venice we head to the Guggenheim  Peggy's palazzo  on the Grand Canal.  Though you enter from behind and out back, once inside, this is the view from inside her grand home looking out onto the grand canal. 

It is a series of rooms  white and refreshing  filled with colorful and exciting modern art.  Art from the masters of the 20th century  Picasso, Klee, Duchamp, Ernst, Calder and Kandinsky.   "Peggy Guggenheim commissioned this 'bedhead' from her friend Alexander Calder in 1945. Two fishes, a dragonfly and flowers evoke pond life---under the water, in the air above, and even on its surface if the spiral circles can be imagined as the rings that skater insects cause on still water."  Yes Alexander Calder, I can imagine that from your work because your sculptures, your work, YOU are genius.  In fact one of the very first posters I can remember buying was this stuck-on-cardboard, slightly damaged, 60s poster from a Calder exhibit.  I found it (for $1) in a used bookstore in Columbus, Ohio  in 1973 while I was working for the Ohio State Department of Economic & Community Development in the Office of Program Analysis.  [It was a mouthful but I was in college and it was a terrific internship and then summer job.] That cardboard-Calder was with me for a long, long time.  It was yellowed and banged-up from being moved around from one apartment to the next over, decades, then attic to attic for the next decade, and finally  finally was thrown away  I think.   When I was at Finch College, just a few blocks away at the Whitney Museum, was Calder's Circus (a truly magnificent assembly of miniatures). I have a special place in my heart for Calder.

Vasily Kandinsky

I loved seeing the work of the Italian artists I didn't even know.

Gino Severini

Even with so much richness of art, I do have two favorites:

Untitled (Pharmacy)
Le Facteur Ceval 
There are two pieces by Max Ernst. One, The Forest is his hauntingly painted image of the dark and scary place his father took him to at the age of five. It is a grim painting that reminds one of a Maurice Sendak scary place. So I am glad to see the light-hearted paper and fabric collage Le Facteur Ceval that Ernst has done to commemorate the house of the postman Cheval. A worker who collected things on his route and over the course of 33 years, built himself an eccentric and eclectic castle.

For the first time, I see  and am delighted by  the works of Joseph Cornell, an artist who is “one of the pioneers and most celebrated exponents of assemblage.” Cornell is an artist after my own heart because to do what he does, one must be a collector. All these little bottles with little treasures make me want to find a place to buy my own little bottles and create my own curious assemblage. But once back home, I find the followers of Joseph Cornell have done just that — by providing a website The Joseph Cornell Box where you can post your very own assemblage (….and now that I've seen some I realize, better not even try.)

We close our visit by seeing an exhibit "CYCLING, CUBO-FUTURISM AND THE FOURTH DIMENSION" and if you click on the link (for as long as its live), you'll be able to see some of it too!

After being enveloped by the modern delights of the Guggenheim, we walk on to visit some churches (more coming in Rome so I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow) and decide to eat our dinner back at the Jewish Ghetto area at the place Valentina (from Antice Stellato) has recommended we try for cichetti  Al Timon on the Fondamenta dei Ormesini.  Again under the setting Venetian sun, we sit canal-side and realize that the small restaurant is crammed with young people ordering up small plates, beers, and checking out the huge blackboard for its three-column assortment of wine by the glass. 

The hipsters  who are perched on a sailboat permanently anchored to the side deck covered-over to accommodate more seating, sail tilted to serve as a sunshade  are sprawled on top eating and drinking, laughing and flirting while enjoying their wines and the small plates of salted cod, tomato & mozzarella, delicious chicken livers, and olive tapenade.  As we work our way through the cichettis, the food is so good that, unlike these students, we decide to order dinner entrees and continue to be surprised and pleased at how delicious everything is  the paparadelle con ragu carne was delicate and beefy at the same time; the roasted agnello (lamb) is done to perfection  not overcooked, the way most of the meats seem to be in Italian restaurants. Everyone has said that the food in Venice is the worst, but in my book they're two outta two so far.

We enjoy our wine, our delicious Venetian meal, and plan for our next day’s adventure to the island of Torcello.


  1. Thanks Denise. Love hearing your adventures! Art look beautiful.

    1. Thank you Teri...I wish I were an artist!