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Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict - Bertha Dochouse

Thursday 28 January 2016, by Ryan Ormonde

A documentary about an art collector who in the 1920s considered herself destitute with $450,000 in her bank account, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict might sound a bit vapid, but even a passing interest in artists of the 20th century is reason enough to become acquainted with someone who met the best, bought the best and slept with the best. Derided throughout her career for being a New York heiress with an expensive hobby, Guggenheim’s honest, unaffected character pushes her through. Unlike her contemporary Gertrude Stein, Guggenheim is hopeless at creating her own myth, but if you’ve slept with Samuel Beckett and introduced the world to Jackson Pollock, why bother? Just tell it like it is. Lisa Immordino Vreeland is as thorough and entertaining in telling Guggenheim’s story as she was in capturing the life of her relation Diana Vreeland for the fabulous The Eye Has to Travel, although in this film there are probably fewer laughs. As a commentator observes, this is a sad life. Several people close to Guggenheim either abuse her, torment her, die, or all the above.

Art, of course, is the saviour, although whether the medium of film can adequately present paintings and sculptures is debatable, particularly in the context of a gallery owner whose dramatic and intimate exhibitions go further than even today’s high-tech curatorial experiences, in terms of connecting a viewer with an art work. Rather, it seems the purpose of this film to point outwards. Immediately I wanted to visit Cork Street in London where Guggenheim set up her first gallery, not to mention her museum in Venice, a city with a reputation for contemporary art that is largely Guggenheim’s legacy. Guggenheim was in an enviable position in the history of art and bohemian culture. She had enough money and luck on her side to make it happen and happen it did. For all her privilege and the extraordinary company she kept, her story is relatable to anyone with a passion. ‘Hold on to the art’ is the message of Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. Hold on to anything, one might add.

Dir., Lisa Immordino Vreeland, 2015

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is showing at Bertha Dochouse, tickets and more information here http://www.dochouse.org/cinema/screenings/peggy-guggenheim-art-addict

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