Bingo: book club
Though the Guggenheim name is well-known, I had never heard of Peggy Guggenheim, but when it came up as my work book club’s next pick, I was intrigued. An heiress to (today’s equivalent of) millions of dollars, she had a cushy childhood before deciding to devote herself to supporting and collecting art. She lived in England, France, Italy and America, and visited many more places in her never-ending quest to expand her art collections.
This memoir is a very entertaining read, as Guggenheim lived an interesting life in interesting times, and was heavily involved in the Surrealist and Abstract Expressionism movements, helping to bring such artists as Jackson Pollock to the attention of the art world. She tells her story at an incredibly fast pace, which is intensified by the sheer number of artists and other famous people she met, became friends with, and even married. Unfortunately I didn’t know who about half of them were, and I do think this memoir would be a lot more entertaining if you like Surrealist art.
I always find it a bit weird to read about historical movements and events through the lens of someone who lived it, because it makes the people involved feel, at the same time, more real but also less special; they’re just human beings, with flaws and good qualities, just like you and me. I very much got that feeling of ultra-realism here, as Guggenheim writes at a mile a minute introducing new people on every single page, and never really diving into anything very deeply, preferring to highlight their eccentricities instead. Her writing style is very matter-of-fact, which makes her funny anecdotes even funnier, but unfortunately also undermines the story of her extraordinary life.