This is the perfect type of documentary to see. It’s a person you don’t know a lot about, and you never lose interest finding out about her. Peggy Guggenheim can be smart, funny, sad, vulnerable. She comes across as a bit of a hoarder, but…if what you’re hoarding are Pollock and Dali paintings that are now worth millions…is that really a bad thing?
Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland shows how Guggenheim launched the careers of the biggest modern artists in history. Finding out about her relationships with these artists is fascinating, and the movie always has lots of surprises. In one interest segment, it’s watching as we see how close she was to not being able to ship all her art work to the United States (just that 10 minute segment of the documentary was more interesting than the entire film Documents Men).
Obviously with a subject like this, a lot of archival photos are relied upon. We get the usual talking heads from the art world, too. It’s amazing to think that this was a woman who wasn’t that well-respected back in the day.
Now, the recent Marlon Brando documentary relied on a lot of his prerecorded ramblings, which had a little bit of interest, but didn’t sustain the documentary. Here they smartly rely on only a handful of the taped interviews Guggenheim did in the mid-80s.
Hearing her talk about her dad dying on the Titanic, and learning about the wealth this family had…as well as the nervous breakdown, and something all art lovers will get chills over — the prices she paid for paintings nobody else was interested in. You chuckle as she talks about the people that were buying Pollocks for $200 to $600. Another time, she talks about spending $40,000 on art that would be worth about $500 million today. And she was a smart businesswoman. She was willing to take advice from the right people, and heck…she even had an affair with an artist just for a cheaper price on a sculpture.
Among the talking heads, Robert De Niro is in a few segments talking about his experience with Guggenheim (his mother was an artist).
Obviously, art lovers will appreciate seeing the Kandinsky’s and Koonig’s (it was fascinating to see him on film, which I never had).
Yet you don’t have to know anything about art to appreciate a good documentary on an interesting person.
This gets 3 1/2 stars out of 5.