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SYNOPSIS: A colourful character who was not only ahead of her time but helped to define it, Peggy Guggenheim (1898 - 1979) was an American heiress who became a central figure in the modern art movement. As she moved through the cultural upheaval of the 20th Century, she collected not only art, but artists. Her personal history included such figures as Samuel Beckett, Alexander Calder and Marcel Duchamp, and was instrumental in advancing the careers of several modern artists including Jackson Pollock and Max Ernst. While fighting personal tragedy, she maintained her vision to build one of the most important collections of modern art, now enshrined in her Venetian palazzo, visited by millions.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Peggy Guggenheim became an art addict, yes, but she was also a bit of a sex addict, according to those who knew her, many of them speaking kindly but frankly about her dual addiction. Art gave meaning to her life, but sex gave her a connection with people she yearned for. Not an attractive woman, Guggenheim herself admits that she was keen to lose her virginity - and it happened when she was 23.

One of her favourite men was Samuel Beckett, with whom she once spent four days in a hotel bed, interrupted only when room service arrived.

But such titillation is not the purpose of this film, a serious work, well researched and put together with great flair, seductive images and a lovely score. The details of her family and her changing life are clearly presented, well illustrated. Guggenheim apparently had a natural ability to discover artists early, including Jackson Pollock, and she found art to be a way of representing her inner self. The stranger the better.

She plunged in, opening her Guggenheim Jeune Gallery in London, and her eye was superb. But there was one man among the various advisors she listened to, who she regards as pre-eminent and vital to her: Marcel Duchamp.

We learn through her eyes about art, or rather, her view of art, and it is a wonderful visual adventure into surrealism, abstract, cubism and the Duchampesque view that an artist choosing to display a urinal, say, is art because it is that artist's choice.

Guggenheim helped modernist Max Ernst escape the Nazis (who would arrest modernists as fast as they captured Jews) and move to New York in 1941, where she married him. The move coincides with the fall of Paris as the world's art centre and the rise of New York. Hers was a pioneering gallery here combining European and American modern art. She also organised the first ever exhibition of women artists - 31 of them.

Framed around a lengthy (and until now lost) audio interview recorded with an elderly Peggy Guggenheim by Jacqueline Bogard Weld, this documentary offers a rich, layered portrait of a lonely but sexually active woman who became an artist at championing modern artists. By attaching herself to great art as she did, she has claimed some sort of immortality.

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(US, 2015)

CAST: Documentary

PRODUCER: Dan Braun, Stanley F. Buchthal, Davod Koh, Lisa Immordino Vreeland

DIRECTOR: Lisa Immordino Vreeland

SCRIPT: Bernadine Colish, Lisa Immordino Vreeland


EDITOR: Bernadine Colish, Jed Parker

MUSIC: Steven Argila

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2015: Cinema Nova (VIC), Dendy Newtown (NSW) and Cinema Paradiso (WA)

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