The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

Whenever I take a city break I always like to seek out small museums and private collections that often give you an insight into the collector. These collections always feel less touristy and the viewing seems more relaxed perhaps because the collections are smaller you can take time to linger and do not feel the need to race round and try and see everything.

Situated in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Dorsoduro on the Grand Canal in Venice is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. This must be one of the world’s most important collections of European and American modern art collected and presented by the late Peggy Guggenheim.

Dating back to the 18 century the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, designed by the architect Lorenzo Boschetti is often referred to as the “unfinished palace”. It is a single storey construction with stunning views of the Grand Canal, especially from the terrace and Peggy lived in the palace for 30 years. Do not be fooled by the single storey though because here lies a vast collection of modern art and sculpture.

My sister and I visited the gallery-museum on a sunny Saturday morning in October 2018. We arrived a short while before the gallery-museum opened and soon a small queue formed but once inside the queue of people soon dissipated. This enabled us to take our time and explore the collections, read the labels and even go back and view some exhibits a second time.

The light and airy gallery includes exhibits from different movements – Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism and Abstract Expressionism and by artists including Pablo Picasso, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Jackson Pollock. Each exhibit has a label description but there is a shop where guides to the collection can be purchased. I purchased a small and slim guide, ideal for my handbag and with accessible information and colour pictures of the collection. There are Guides on hand to answer any questions but if you are anything like me I just like to amble around taking my time and reading my museum guide.

Composizione, Tancredi Parmeggiani
PHOTOGRAPH BY Sue Ball

I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling of excitement and wonder as you turn to look at another piece of art only to discover that it is by another famous modern artist. The collection truly reflects Peggy’s passion for modern art and I can’t help but wonder if Peggy’s passion helped to cement the success of modern artists such as Jackson Pollock today.

Two, Jackson Pollock
PHOTOGRAPH BY Sue Ball

As well as the gallery there is the Nasher Sculpture Garden. Here you will find sculptures by Anthony Caro, Max Ernst and Henry Moore. There is a lovely café where you can sit peacefully in the shady sculpture garden and reflect on your visit. Despite the warm weather and the desire to sit outside and it being a Saturday morning (nearer lunchtime once we had explored the collection inside) we easily found a free table in the garden to take our refreshments. Sitting in the garden it is hard to believe that the palace sits on the busy Grand Canal and is one of the most visited attractions in Venice for it is an oasis of calm and tranquillity.

Part of the Nasher Sculpture Garden overlooking the Grand Canal
PHOTOGRAPH BY Sue Ball

The museum-gallery is situated between the Accademia and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute. Take the vaporetto number 1 or 2 down the canal, enjoying the sights and the atmosphere, to the Accademia stop.

Try and visit as near to opening time as possible. It took my sister and I a couple of hours to view the collection followed by a leisurely cup of tea in the sculpture garden afterwards.

You can find out more about Peggy and her collection, guided tours, presentations and special events at www.guggenheim-venice.it Whilst we are in the midst of a pandemic the museum-gallery remains closed but there is the opportunity to participate in online events.

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Sue Ball

Sue Ball has worked in public libraries for over 30 years. Sue’s current role entails responsibility for the design and implementation of strategy and policy for children, young people and adult library services at Staffordshire County Council.

Sue is Past Chair of the national Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL https://ascel.org.uk/ ) . Sue is a member of the Children’s Laureate steering group, the group who has responsibility for selecting the English Children’s Laureate https://www.booktrust.org.uk/what-we-do/childrens-laureate/ Sue is the lead for the Public Libraries Health and Wellbeing Universal Library Offer https://www.librariesconnected.org.uk/page/universal-library-offers and is a CILIP Trustee https://www.cilip.org.uk/

In 2019 Sue was awarded an M.B.E in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for Services to Libraries.