57. Biennale in Venice – A Week in September – Monday

So this morning I took the train from Milan via Pisa to Venice Mestre station which is on the main land – in the ‘real’ world. Of course Mestre is not as surreal and dreamy as Venice itself, but there are certainly some advantages staying there – and if it’s only for the lower prices for accommodations, food, practically everything.

Gondoliere in Venice
Venice is absolutely stunning – but Venice is also its own cliché.

Although Trenitalia has a bad rep, I cannot complain: I’ve taken an fantastic number of trains criss cross Italy and never had any problem, never got stuck, nothing. Just comfy, fast, and pretty cheap: I’m paying 20 €uro each way by regional trains that take about 3 hours. A fast train needs one hour less and costs from 35 €uro up – so it’s up to you whether you choose speed over price (I would if I had e. g. only a weekend, but I have a whole week: beata me (= lucky me)).

Talking ’bout cheap: Before coming here I’ve luckily found a great site where you can book bed&breakfast places at really unbeatable prices – it’s called Bed and Breakfast Italia and now I’m staying with Marina who’s a doll – sweet and helpful and friendly.
The place is not in the historic centre, but in Mestre in a lovely neighborhood – by bus like ten minutes. She charges 50 €uro per night, basic breakfast included, and feel very comfortable here.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

In many places Monday is not a good day for art enthusiasts since many venues are closed. Not the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, so Peggy, here I come.

Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni - Guggenheim bye:myself
The “Palazzo Vernier dei Leonie”, that used to be Ms Guggenheim’s home and houses now her impressive art collection
that she donated to the Samuel R. Guggenheim Foundation.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: Matteo de Fina)

Peggy Guggenheim was born as Marguerite Guggenheim in 1898 in New York. She was one of the three daughters of the industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim who in 1912 was at the wrong time in the wrong place: on the ‘Titanic’ whilst it was sinking.

Salomon Robert Guggenheim, his brother and consequently Peggy’s uncle, was also an industrialist, but also a philanthrope and patron of arts.

Back to Peggy, who in 1921 moved to Paris and got involved with the very exciting, fresh, new, and daring art scene and people like Djuna Barnes, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp. She got married to French writer Laurence Veil and the couple got to kids Pegeen and Sindbad (yes, I’ve heard this name, don’t point, let’s pretend we didn’t notice).

After divorcing Veil, Peggy opened and closed galleries in London and Paris, being lectured and instructed about art by her artist friends. During her years in Paris just before WWII she was able to extend her collection significantly by buying at extremely low prices from artist who had to flee.
On the other hand she donated 500,000 Francs to the Emergency Rescue Committee that helped prosecuted people escaping Vichy France. Being of Jewish descent, in 1941 she had to leave, too, and she went to the United States together with her later husband, German artist Max Ernst, whose art was considered ‘degenerated’.

Max Ernst - Guggenheim bye:myself
La Toilette de la mariée (Attirement of the Bride) Painting by Peggy Guggenheim’s second husband Max Ernst, who used the decalcomanie technique in many of his most important paintings: First he applied the color with a sheet and by removing it, the still wet color formed a pattern or
motive that Ernst completed to an image.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: Andrea Sarti/CAST1466)

In 1947, Peggy Guggenheim came back to Europe and settled in Venice. She had divorced Max Ernst who got involved with the surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning.
She moved into the Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni, that she opened as a museum to the public in 1951.

giardino al Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni bye:myself
The beautiful garden of Guggenheim’s palazzo – with lots of arts even outside.
Also Guggenheim’s grave is found in this yard right next  the graves of her dogs.
And since I’m a moron sometimes, I pitied her a lot when I fist visited the site because I thought that she had lost 14 children; but it’s also a little bit her fault since she wrote on their plaque that there are resting her ‘beautiful babies’.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: David Heald)

Alexander Calder - Guggenheim bye:myself
On of Alexander Calder’s magical, airy mobiles.
But check how it matches the artfully forged black
doors and windows.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: Andrea Sarti/CAST1466)

Anyway, in 1969, Peggy Guggenheim bequeathed her collection to the Salomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York. She died ten years later in Italy and is buried in the Palazzo’s patio.

To learn more about Peggy Guggenheim, I recommend her very entertaining biography “Confession of an Art Addict”

Room - Guggenheim bye:myself
This looks nothing like my living room. I would be already happy just looking at the long, elegant Brancusi-bird
to the right.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: David Heald)

One small room is dedicated to Peggy Guggenheim’s daughter Pegeen Vail who was an artist. Sadly, she suffered from depressions and committed suicide at the age of 41.

One of Pegeen’s paintings. I like the bright colors and the fun motive – quite mattisish. I think she was a talented artist.

On the occasion of this year’s biennale there was an exhibition on Mark Tobey that I’ve missed
by just one day. Now there is only Picasso left who has many fans – so he doesn’t need me. Anyway, this exhibition is titled “Picasso. On the Beach” with the focus on one of Peggy Guggenheim’s favorite paintings. This show will go on till January 8, 2018 – but visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is always worth a visit.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection 
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni
Dorsoduro 701
30123 Venezia
Phone: +39 – 41 – 240 54 11
Email: info@guggenheim-venice.it

Open from Wednesday to Monday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

François Pinault Foundation

Not only was Peggy Guggenheim a poor…angel compared to her family members; in comparison to Monsieur François Pinault she was a pauper. But there are only 64 people worldwide who have more money than Monsieur Pinault who according to the Forbes-list of 2015 owns a piggy bank filled with 14.9 billions. He’s making his money with companies like Gucci, Bottega Veneta and many more.

So it was probably no big deal for him to shop the Palazzo Grassi from Gianni Agnelli, owner of the Fiat car company. Sounds like a very posh flee market.

Anyway, Monsieur Pinault is now presenting his collection of modern art at the Palazzo Grassi that was designed by the architect Giorgio Massari, who also created Ca’ Rezzonico, and was finished in 1772.

On the occasion of the Biennale, Pinault ‘hired’ art superstar Damian Hirst. Damian Hirst, born in 1965 in the art cradle Bristol. While he did a lot for the art by organizing the exhibition “Freeze” in 1988 which initiated the Young British Artist ‘movement’, he over the years lost his originality.

Damian Hirst - calf
Those were the days, my friend, when Hirst upset the
audience by cutting calves in half…

He did shock the audience in 2007 when he finished the diamond skull “For the Love of God” that has an estimated value of 300 million US$. His animals – whole or cut in parts – that he preserved in formaldehyde have caused admiration or disgust.

Damien Hirst
….and his statues skinned themselves.

Hirst is world’s wealthiest artist: He holds a wealth of 1 billion US$. With that he could by a couple of his diamond skulls.

But obviously he set the bar quite high; and it’s difficult to keep up with his own standards.

For the Palazzo Grassi he created a ‘treasure’ of statues, tools, coins and medals that supposedly was salvaged and is now on display, covered with all sorts of sea plants and corals and barnacles. There are also films on display telling how divers find the treasures.

Damian Hirst - Demon with Bowl
This center piece called Demon with Bowl is 18 meters / 59 feet high.
Yet another proof that size doesn’t matter.

Damian Hirst - Demon with Bowl
Here a film what the Demon with Bowl looked like under water – before he was supposedly found.

Damian Hirst - Mickey Mouse
And here is Mickey watching a photograph how he was found in the Ocean.
Using trashy, trivial, commerce symbols, Mr. Hirst, hasn’t been original since Warhol, Lichtenstein, Koons…..

The exhibition is in two big venues. The story is not original enough keep up the suspense looking at so many exhibits. The pieces are not beautiful enough to fascinate the visitors. The whole is not quirky enough to blow your mind. It’s big. It’s very big. It’s too big. It’s interesting insofar that it shows that gigantomania is not enough to cast a spell over the art audience.

Of course everybody is talking about the show, every art magazine has written about it, they are even advertising for it on the back of the bus tickets – what a sell out.

Today I’ve been only to the Palazzo Grassi part, the Punta Dogana will follow in a later post.

Palazzo Grassi
Campo San Samuele 3231

Open Wedneday to Monday 10 a. m. to 7 p.  m.

Palazzo Bembo

At every Biennale there is the exhibition “Personal Structures” taking place at Palazzo Bembo (and Palazzo Mora as well as Giardini Marinaressa, but these two venues will be covered in a later post).

It always a quite eclectic mix of very different pieces from artists from many countries – at the Bembo for instance from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Viet Nam, France, Australia, the US and many more. The mix is so diverse, that I think everybody finds something he likes.

Palazzo Bembo
Graham Hay Critical Mass – ice cones made of paper clay that can be taken as a souvenir (front) and
Kimberley Gundle A Celebration of Cultural Adornment of the Massai of Kenya and Tanzania (back)

Palazzo Bembo
Xenia Hausner Exiles 2 
Sometimes it takes only an ideal, appealing colors and a good painting technique to create decent piece of art.

Palazzo Bembo
Fun sculptures in technical perfection by Carole A. Feuerman in the backdrop of Antoine Rose’s beach photographs.
Kudos to the curators for this congruent arrangement.

At every Biennale, this exhibition is on of my favorites.

Palazzo Bembo
Riva del Carbon 4793
30124 Venice


My landlady recommended me the coolest place for an aperitivo: Taverna al Remer. It’s located in a teeny tiny alley close to Chiesa di Giovanni Crisostomo. You turn into the Sotoportego del Remer – a really narrow alley without any sign, but you find it on Google maps.

Taverna Remer
Wide range of drinks at the rustic bar…
Taverna Remer
….accompanied by tasty niblets.

During their happy hour from 5.30 to 7 p. m. they have all sort of lovely drinks and a very generous choice of niblets to choose from as much as you like.

Taverna Al Remer
Cannaregio 5701
30121 Venice
Phone: + 39 – 41 – 522 87 89
Email: taverna.remer@yahoo.it

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