Using tapes thought to be lost from Peggy Guggenheim’s 1978-79 interviews with her biographer Jacqueline B. Weld, filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland creates a detailed retelling of the breathtaking life of art connoisseur Peggy Guggenheim, the woman credited with introducing the world to masters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko amongst many others.
Alongside these marvellous recordings, Vreeland assembles numerous videos of Peggy and her art world associates and contemporaries, as well as a plethora of archive photographs. This makes Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict an art lover’s delight, as well as a treat for historians. The elderly Ms. Guggenheim’s feisty replies and amused reactions to her past improprieties serve to enhance the footage of social gatherings and black and white photos being splashed across the screen.
The film is a detailed account of her life, from her family’s lineage on both sides, explaining how she gained her position in society, to her father’s untimely death that resulted in her modest inheritance, which she used to amass perhaps the most important collection of modern art in the world. We continue chapter by chapter, following along in her travels to Europe— and the bohemian life that she readily embraced there—leading to her position in the art world and the establishment of her first gallery, Guggenheim Jeune in London, England, and so on.
Vreeland keeps things spicy by being quick to point out all of Peggy’s artist lovers and trysts. There are mentions of affairs and infatuations over images of paintings and advertisements for gallery shows. Vreeland uses Peggy’s own narration through the taped interviews but juxtaposes them for maximum impact. However she also approaches Guggenheim’s sexual exploits from another angle, briefly exploring the ways in which her notoriety may have overshadowed her accomplishments as a curator and patron of the arts. Also interesting is her position as the black sheep of the Guggenheim family and how everything she accomplished was separate from her uncle Solomon Guggenheim, whose branch of the family shunned her and her avant garde collection.
Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is absorbing in the same way a supermarket tabloid calls to you at the supermarket checkout: Full of eye candy and scintillating tidbits, but with much more substance. Vreeland is packing in the info on Peggy in the film’s 95-minute running time, and you’re going to want to take in every bit of it.