From the WNYC Archives: Peggy Guggenheim in the '60s

Friday, October 01, 2010


In the winter of 1969, Peggy Guggenheim took leave of her beloved Italian villa to come to New York City to see her personal art collection displayed, for the first time, on the spiraling ramps of the Guggenheim Museum. It was a historic moment for Peggy, the notorious socialite and bon vivant who'd spent much of her youth barely speaking with her Uncle Solomon, the founder of the museum. (He passed away in 1949.)

During this visit, she sat down for a long-format Q&A with WNYC's Ruth Bowman for the 1960s-era arts program, "Views on Art." At the time of the interview, Peggy would have been 70 years old — and approaching the end of a very long and colorful life. She had lost her father to the "Titanic." She'd had affairs with Max Ernst and Samuel Beckett. She went to Europe and built up a priceless art collection. She then had to find ways to keep that art out of the Nazi's hands. She had also nurtured the careers of Abstract Expressionist figures like Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still and Robert Motherwell at her gallery, Art of This Century. And she'd continued to press the cause of these artists even after moving back to Europe in the late '40s.

She reflects on many of these occurences in this charming, 30-minute interview — at times in a non-chalant and self-deprecating manner. Early on she makes a crack about "Mr. Solomon" (as she called her uncle) turning over in his grave if he'd known that her collection would be displayed in the museum that bore his name. Also of particular interest: her stories about how she got her art out of Europe as the Nazis were invading France. Be sure to stick it out through the ending credits for the plucky 1960s music. It is totally of another era.

This interview originally aired on WNYC on February 6, 1969. For more on Peggy Guggenheim and her collection, see the Peggy Guggenheim Collection's website.

David M. Heald, © SRGF, New York. Courtesy Guggenheim Museum
Peggy Guggenheim's home on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy — the spot she retired to after closing her gallery, Art of This Century, in 1947. The space today houses her collection.


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Comments [1]

john stern

Is npr or hosting a debate tomorrow eveing (4/7) at NYU?

Apr. 06 2011 04:13 PM

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