Florence toasts Guggenheim eye for 20th century art

From Kandinsky to Pollock, the extraordinary impact collectors Peggy and Solomon Guggenheim had on 20th century art is celebrated by an exhibition of over 100 masterpieces that opens in Florence on Saturday.

Florence toasts Guggenheim eye for 20th century art
Peggy Guggenheim in Paris in 1930. Photo: Rogi André/Wikicommons

Subtitled “The Art of the Guggenheim Collections”, the exhibition, which will run in the Tuscan city's Palazzo Strozzi until July 24th, explores how bohemian socialite Peggy, her uncle Solomon and the celebrated New York museum he established influenced European and American art from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, it features paintings, sculptures, photographs and engravings borrowed from the Guggenheim museums in New York and Venice and a small number of other museums and private collections.

“Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979) did not just buy works, she bet on young artists and supported them thanks to an incredible artistic instinct and curiosity,” Barbero said. “She was so sure of her own taste, she never compromised.”

The fruit of those instincts was the acquisition of works by an extraordinary list of artists: Wassily Kandinsky, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst (to whom Peggy was married from 1941-46), Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder, to name just a selection.

As a result, the Florence exhibition is able to offer a rare opportunity to view some seminal works of pre-WWII modern art, including pieces by Max Ernst, Man Ray and Pablo Picasso, alongside illustrations of the divergent post-war trends on either side of the Atlantic.

It also tells the story of Peggy Guggenheim's arrival in Europe in 1921, her return to the United States during World War II and her decision to finally base herself and her collection in Venice from 1949.

“Peggy wanted to understand the artistic effervescence of Europe at the time so she simply moved here,” Berbero said.

In the Paris of the roaring 20s she mixed with poets, writers, painters and sculptors, serving both as patron and as muse.

A Bacon in her bedroom

Important purchases during the inter-war period included Italian sculptor Giacometti's “Woman Walking” and Picasso's “The Dream and Lie of Franco.”

With the outbreak of war in 1939, Guggenheim was transformed from socialite collector to a mother figure desperately trying to protect her artists in the face of the Nazi threat.

She was forced to flee Europe herself in 1941 and Pollock, who has 18 works in the exhibition, was one of the major beneficiaries of the time she spent back in the United States.

In 1943 she gave him a contract that enabled him to give up his work as a maintenance man and devote himself full-time to his art.

The exhibition opens with works by Kandinsky, Duchamp and Ernst and then goes on to explore postwar developments on both sides of the Atlantic, contrasting the work of Europe's Informalist school including Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana with the abstract expressionism of Pollock and Rothko and the later development of Pop Art led by Roy Lichtenstein.

Palazzo Strozzi has been chosen as the venue because it was here that Peggy first showed the collection that was later to find a permanent home in Venice, shortly after her return to Europe.

Twenty-five works from that original exhibition are back in Florence for this one.

Highlights include Kandinsky's “Dominant Curve” (1936), which Peggy owned but sold in what she later counted as one of the “seven tragedies in her life as a collector”, and Francis Bacon's “Study for Chimpanzee” (1957).

Rarely shown outside Venice, the collector was so fond of Bacon's work she generally had it hanging in her bedroom.

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The new guide to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Florence's world-famous galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

The new guide to Florence's Uffizi Galleries - showing only the nudes
Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is the most famous work included in a controversial new guide to the Uffizi Galleries. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The online guide to the gallieries is produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

Part of the site’s Classic Nudes series of ‘erotic’ guides to some of the world’s most renowned museums, the guide for the Uffizi lists 21 artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and the location of each piece within the galleries.

“The Uffizi Gallery is located in the birthplace of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. So it’s no wonder it has such a large collection of artwork from the era. But what you may find surprising is the sheer volume and variety of naked bodies rendered in paint, bronze and marble in this marvelous museum,” writes Pornhub.

Among the works featured are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1485) and the Roman statue of the Knidian Aphrodite, dating from the 1st Century.

The guide also includes the Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538), which it calls “kinky”, and Painting and Poetry by Francesco Furini (1626), which is described as featuring “two ridiculously hot babes who just so happen to be making out”.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Bosses at the Uffizi were not amused at the gallery’s inclusion in Pornhub’s series and have threatened to sue.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre’s management has said only that it is ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay remained silent on the subject.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

The Uffizi does, however, provide a great day out for all the family and contains a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present it is operating with reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.