Peggy Guggenheim Collection



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This remarkable establishment, tucked behind a high wall off a quiet street, is the third most visited museum in the city. It was founded by one of Venice's most colourful expat residents, Peggy Guggenheim, whose father went down in the Titanic, leaving her a fortune.

The money came in useful as she set out to satisfy her ravenous appetite for men and art. Peggy may have hated her bulbous nose - the result of a botched job by a plastic surgeon - but that didn't stop her running up a list of lovers that reads like a who's who of contemporary culture, including Yves Tanguy, Samuel Beckett, Roland Penrose and Max Ernst, to whom she was briefly married. When asked how many husbands she had had, she replied: 'Do you mean mine, or other people's?' Ms Guggenheim took the same voracious approach to art as to men.

She turned up in the lagoon city in 1949 looking for a home for her already sizable collection. A short-sighted curator at the Tate Gallery in London had described her growing pile of surrealist and modernist works as 'non-art'. Venice, still struggling to win back the tourists after World War II, was less finicky, and Peggy found a perfect, eccentric base in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, a truncated 18th-century Grand Canal palazzo.

There are big European names in her art collection, including Picasso, Duchamp, Brancusi, Giacometti and Max Ernst, plus a few Americans such as Calder and Jackson Pollock. Highlights include the beautifully enigmatic Empire of Light by Magritte and Giacometti's disturbing Woman with Her Throat Cut. The flamboyant Attirement of the Bride, by Peggy's husband, Max Ernst, often turns up as a Carnevale costume. But perhaps the most startling exhibit of all is the rider of Marino Marini's Angel of the City out on the Grand Canal terrace, who thrusts his manhood towards passing vaporetti. Never the shrinking wallflower, Peggy took delight in unscrewing the member and pressing it on young men she fancied.

Another wing has been given over to Futurist works on long-term loan from the collection of Gianni Mattioli.

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Peggy Guggenheim Collection details

Dorsoduro 701,
fondamenta Venier dei Leoni

Area Venice

Transport Vaporetto Accademia or Salute

Telephone 041 520 6288

Peggy Guggenheim Collection website

Open 10am-6pm Mon, Wed-Sun.

Admission €12; €7-€10 reductions.