American heiress Peggy Guggenheim was considered to be as intriguing as the art she collected. One of the pioneering collectors of Abstract Expressionism, she had a particular fondness for surrealism, cubism and sculpture. At the height of her career, she amassed a piece of art per day.
In London, Guggenheim opened her first modern art gallery, Guggenheim Jeune, featuring artists like Wassily Kandinsky, Yves Tanguy and Pablo Picasso. Although she didn’t actually know very much about art when she started, she fortunately had Marcel Duchamp as her mentor.
It was the gallery that ultimately prompted her to start collecting: “Gradually I bought one work of art from every show I gave, so as not to disappoint the artists if I were unsuccessful in selling anything,'' she wrote.
In 1939, Guggenheim’s ambition increased, and she decided to open a modern art museum in London. Working with Duchamp and art advisor Harold Reed, she vowed to buy “a piece a day.”
In 1941, the approach of the German army drove Guggenheim to flee Europe with her fiancé, artist Max Ernst. She quickly established an art museum in New York called “Art of this Century.” Guggenheim continued to support abstract and surrealist painters, and was an especially enthusiastic admirer of the American movement of Abstract Expressionism.
In 1947, she moved to Italy and exhibited her collection at the 1948 Venice Biennale. Twenty-two years later, Peggy donated her collection to the Solomon F. Guggenheim Foundation, which had been established by her uncle.