Art lover’s color­ful life now dis­played on­screen

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - MOVIES - By Sheri Lin­den

She played ten­nis with Ezra Pound and counted a days-long sex­ual tryst with Sa­muel Beck­ett among her amorous ad­ven­tures. Nearly any chap­ter of Peggy Guggen­heim’s ex­tra­or­di­nary life could fill a fea­ture-length film: the child­hood shaped by wealth, ec­cen­tric­ity and her phi­lan­der­ing fa­ther’s death on the Ti­tanic; her own dif­fi­cult mar­riages and par­ent­hood; and, es­pe­cially, her piv­otal role as an art col­lec­tor, pa­tron and gal­lerist.

Lisa Im­mordino Vree­land deftly chore­ographs the story in her vi­brant doc­u­men­tary “Peggy Guggen­heim: Art Ad­dict,” at once a cap­sule history of modernism and a poignant per­sonal por­trait. With its jaunty jazz score and well­cho­sen archival ma­te­rial, the film finds Guggen­heim where the bo­hemian ac­tion is, be­gin­ning with Paris of the 1920s. Ul­ti­mately, she cre­ated her own art mecca in the Vene­tian palazzo where the pub­lic can view her col­lec­tion to this day.

Vree­land gives the art its due, in­ter­weav­ing im­ages of dozens of the sur­re­al­ist and ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist works that Guggen­heim bought well be­fore they were fash­ion­able or prized. Friends and ex­perts of­fer in­sight­ful com­ments, crisply edited, on the woman and her work. One ex­pert’s re­mark about her “lack of beauty” is rankling to con­tem­po­rary sen­si­bil­i­ties, but it as­tutely echoes the con­ven­tions that Guggen­heim de­fied. Mercedes Ruehl, who played her on­stage, shares pen­e­trat­ing ob­ser­va­tions. But it’s Guggen­heim’s voice that gives the film its in­deli­ble edge.

Au­dio­tapes that Vree­land MPAA rat­ing: None. Run­ning time: 1:35 Opens: Fri­day un­cov­ered in a bi­og­ra­pher’s base­ment doc­u­ment an in­ter­view in the last year of Guggen­heim’s life. (She died in 1979 at age 81.) Whether the sub­ject is her up­bring­ing or Jackson Pol­lock’s in­grat­i­tude for her in­stru­men­tal sup­port, she speaks in a clipped, dry man­ner. Yet her wit comes through, of­ten en­twined with a bit­ing sad­ness. Discussing her child­hood, she says, un­for­get­tably, “I don’t think there were any good moth­ers in those days.”


Peggy Guggen­heim at Palazzo Ve­nier dei Leoni with Alexan­der Calder, Arc of Pe­tals (1941).

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