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Guggenheim Collection, Venice

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By Dianne Hales

My Favorite Museum in Italy

I've been dazzled by the mosaics of the Basilica of San Marco and impressed by the majestic paintings in the Palazzo Ducale. But the place that makes me smile is Venice's most incongruous museum: the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal.

Submitted by Dianne Hales, author of La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language. Dianne has a blog, Becoming Italian Word by Word - Read about the blog and more tips from Dianne in her blog submission.

What's special about this museum?

In a crumbling city that enshrines the glories of the past, the Guggenhem Collection is an artistic time-capsule of the first half of the 20th-century, when pioneers such as Picasso, Duchamps and Kandinsky were re-inventing art. Heiress Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979) befriended and supported these artists, showcasing their works and bringing them to international attention. Some consider her collection Europe's most important small museum of contemporary art.

Inside Palazzo Venier dei Leoni: For the last 30 years of her life, the one-story 18th-century palazzo was Guggenheim¹s home. In 1951 she began welcoming the public on some summer afternoons ­but only into the dining room. The original chair and table are still there, along with pre-War Cubist paintings.

After her death the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, founded by her uncle and famous for its New York City site, transformed the entire palazzo into a museum. The entrance hall features an iconic Calder mobile and Picasso's 1937 "On the Beach". Cubist and Futurist works hang in the kitchen; geometric abstract art, in the drawing room. The library, where Guggenheim entertained personal guests, contains the masterpieces of the collection: works by de Chirico and surrealist painters such as Ernst and Tanguy. The former guest room houses paintings by Jackson Pollock, the abstract expressonist whose career Guggenheim launched and nurtured. The airy gallery displays important surrealist sculptures and paintings by Giacometti, Miro, Dali, and Magritte.

Advice

  • The artists represented read like a Who¹s Who of modern masters: Brancusi, Kandinsky, de Chirco, Mondrian, Dali, Pollock, Magritte and dozens more.
  • The museum also exhibits noted works by Italian Futurists on long-term loan from the Gianni Mattioli Collection.
  • The museum offers a free tour and art workshop to children under 12 on Sundays at 3 p.m.
  • If you have questions, the friendly docents, art students on Guggenheim internships, are eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.
  • The shady café offers a perfect spot to sip an espresso, nibble on a snack and channel Peggy Guggenheim¹s exuberant spirit.
  • The Venice Guggenheim is closed on Tuesdays

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