As you head up the Grand Canal on a vaporetto, you might catch sight of a modern villa crouching between all the historic palazzo. This was the home of Peggy Guggenheim, a wealthy American art patron and collector and Venice personality until her death in 1979. She was the last person to keep a private gondola and gondolier in Venice.
After her plans to open a gallery in London and Paris were scuppered by the outbreak of the WWII, she used the money to buy art by avant-garde artists in Paris. She bought 10 Picassos, 8 Miros and 3 Dalis amongst other things, then ended up back in America where she helped the career of Jackson Pollock before returning to Europe and deciding on Venice as her new home town in 1948. She moved into the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal and added some modern Italian artists to her collection before deciding to stop buying and concentrate on exhibiting what she had.
Her collection has become one of the most important in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century – an incredibly rich period of art including Surrealism, Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism. When she died she bequeathed it to the Guggenheim Foundation and they now run her Venice house as a gallery for modern art. She and her dogs are buried in the garden there. The gallery also has a sculpture garden and exhibits contemporary art as well as Peggy’s permanent collection. As a change from all the Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture of Venice it’s worth visiting, as a collection of modern art it’s worth visiting, and for dreaming a little dream of being wealthy enough to live on the Grand Canal in Venice it’s definitely worth visiting Peggy Guggenheim.