If history had been different, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection might today be in London rather than Venice.
Between January 1938 and June 1939, Peggy Guggenheim – a self-confessed art addict and one of the first gallerists in London – ran her gallery Guggenheim Juene at 30 Cork Street in Mayfair, often purchasing work herself from the artists who exhibited there. The gallery ran at a small loss and, in June 1939, she closed it when she had developed plans for what would have been the first permanent gallery of modern art in London.
Sadly, on 1st September that year, Germany invaded Poland and two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. This was obviously not a good time to open a new gallery in London, Peggy travelled to France where she sought to collect as much abstract and surrealist art as she could, using the funds that had been set aside for the London gallery – apparently her ambition was to buy one painting every day!
Having thought about and discarded the idea of setting up a gallery in Paris, she sent her collection across the Atlantic to the USA where it went on display in New York in 1942 and then returned to Europe and to Venice in 1949 in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (unfinished palazzo of the lions) on the Grand Canal, where it is still on display today.
‘Peggy Guggenheim and London’ at Ordovas Arts in Mayfair, London, reflects on that brief period in 1938 and 1939, with archive material and several works on show from exhibitions at Guggenheim Juene, including the ‘Exhibition of Paintings by Yves Tanguy’ held in June 1938, one of the works from which is now in the National Galleries of Scotland.
A loss to London became a great cultural asset to Venice and to Italy.