Friday, June 25, 2010

Bird in Space


When we were in Venice, Christine and I were able to sneak away for a bit one day and check out the Peggy Guggenheim museum. Christine had always wanted to go, but just never actually had a chance to in all of her trips to Venice. She's normally touring first-timers through the city, so there's little time for museum hopping. The list of artists Christine was naming before we decided who (out of the 4 of us) would go along was impressive, and I'm SOOO glad I was able to go because it turned out to be of of my favorite days in Venice.

Peggy Guggenheim purchased a house (Palazzo dei Leoni) on the Grand Canal in Venice in 1948, and spent the later part of her life in Venice, exhibiting her astounding collection of modern art and garden sculptures. Peggy was born into a wealthy family, her father's family having created a fortune mining metals. She grew up in New York, and her father died heroically in the sinking of the Titanic when she was just 14. She dedicated her life to protect the art of her time, and opened her first gallery at the age of 39 in 1937 in London. Peggy was good friends with many artists, including Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi, and was extremely well connected in the modern art world, even though it was a new and often un-well received form of art at the time. She got a bit tired with her gallery, and began conceiving an idea for the first modern art museum in London in 1939. The list of artists for this museum became the basis for her collection, and, oblivious to the war, she set out relentlessly in search of pieces for her future museum. She purchased a piece from Fernand L├ęger on the day Hitler invaded Norway, and the acquired Brancusi's "Bird in Space" as the Germans approached Paris, where she was living at the time. In 1947 she exhibited her collection for the first time in Europe at the Venice Biennalle, which was also the first time Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko had ever been exhibited in Europe. Soon after, Peggy purchased the Palazzo dei Leoni in Venice, which she would call home for her 30 year Venetian life. She opened her home to the public during the summer months, and in 1962 she was named an honorary citizen of Venice. When she died in 1979, she left her entire home and collection to her uncle's foundation, the famed Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and since then her house and collection have been permanently opened to the public.
The artwork in this small museum is absolutely astounding. It's the best, most concentrated collection of modern art I've seen, which isn't saying much since I'm not exactly the art connoisseur, but sometimes a small, concentrated collection is nice so you can absorb the art, and this museum was perfect for that. Since it's in Peggy Guggenheim's amazing house, which is lined with windows looking out to the Grand Canal, it didn't really have the best lighting, as some of the pictures had the glare from the window, but it was like you were getting an architecture and historical tour of her home combined with the museum, which was super cool.

Sergio's favorite artist is Amedeo Modigliani, who's 'Portrait of the Painter Frank Haviland' is on display in the museum. Christine told Sergio his paintings kind of remind her of a Modigliani and he said "Oh, Christine, that's the highest compliment you could ever pay me! Modigliani is my favorite." Needless to say, it was very cool to see Sergio's favorite artist on display. 

"Modigliani. Your first summer in New York City, you were dating a guy who worked on Wall Street and he asked you to move in with him. And you weren't quite sure. Anyway, that was around the time you discovered Modigliani and became obsessed with his painting of this woman who had a blue scarf on, holding a baby. And Hannah said "That painting captured the essence of that woman better than any photograph."
- I can't believe you came to remember that.
I also remember that she freaked because she said she felt more passionate about that painting than she did about Mr.... Wall Street. And she wondered if she would ever meet somebody that could make her feel as passionate as that work of art." -Made of Honor"

Obviously that quote is not about this particular painting, but this is the painting that was in the the museum, and every time I hear Modigliani, that quote is what I think of. And now Sergio, of course.

Christine's favorite piece was Salvador Dali's "Birth of Liquid Desires." Christine is a huge Dali fan (she actually owns 2), and this painting was absolutely stunning. We both stood there about 6 inches from the canvas just taking in all the detail. It was so rich and full of passion that you could look at it every single day for the rest of your life and see something new and have a new appreciation for it each day.

And now for MY favorite piece of art. Constantine Brancusi's Bird in Space. It was absolutely amazing in person; A sort of surreal experience. I remember sitting in humanities class, and my teacher put a picture of this sculpture up on the projector and asked us what we saw, without telling us the title. Someone called out "a golden banana," but I actually became very reflective, and was so incredibly intrigued by this featureless sculpture. I wouldn't have ever guessed, in a building full of Pollocks, Miros, and Picassos, that this would be my favorite piece, but it without a doubt was. Christine kept going back to the Dali painting for a second and third look, and I kept going back to "Bird in Space." It's just so unlimited and beautiful in its simplistic form.

Peggy Guggenheim is actually buried in a small corner in the garden of her home in Venice, alongside her beloved dogs that she had throughout her life. We can add that to my list of famous graves, along with Cappuccino, Gypsy, Hong Kong, Madam Butterfly, and 10 others. Oy vey.

As I'm typing this, there is a concert going on somewhere outside that literally sounds like Elia and Ida are hosting a karaoke contest in the field outside my window. Either the music is too incredibly loud or it's bouncing off the mountains, or a combination of both, but hearing this Italian girl singing "I Kissed a Girl" sing me to sleep isn't really what I had in mind for my lullabies for tonight.

Today my favorite thing about Italy is: Ida's homemade goods. Minestrone 2 days ago, "ALL fresh! 8 vegetables!" as she would say to Christine, her jarred pasta sauce, which is the best pasta sauce in the world, no competition, and today she brought over a jar of marmalade, which I have yet to try, but I'm sure it's amazing.

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