The gathering of abstract artworks from the New York and Venice Guggenheim collections is a major event. An event put together by the ING Art Center under the recently opened exhibition, Guggenheim. Full Abstraction. We are invited to discover these masterpieces hung against coloured textile backgrounds, as they might have been displayed in the home of Peggy Guggenheim, who is at the centre of this remarkable exhibition.
The works come from the famous Guggenheim Museum built by Frank Lloyd Wright on Fifth Avenue and the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal in Venice, the residence of Peggy Guggenheim. The exhibition focuses on the development of abstract art from the 1920s avant-garde in Europe, until the 1960s in the United States. This is a perfect opportunity to discover or read again Peggy Guggenheim’s entertaining autobiography, Out of the Century. Confessions of an Art Addict. Unfortunately, there is no biography of her uncle, Solomon R. Guggenheim, one of the first collectors of non-objective art of the early 1920s.
At that time, the Barbizon School, among others, was still very popular with the American financial aristocracy. Solomon R. Guggenheim already had a fine collection of old masters and even some primitive art. However, a watercolour by the German painter and art dealer, Rudolf Bauer made such an impression on him that, at the instigation of Hilla Rebay, one of Bauer’s associates, he arranged to visit the studios of various European avant-garde artists, including Kandinsky – considered the best painter of his time – at Bauhaus, as well as Chagall, Delaunay, Léger and Mondrian.
It was also at that time that the young Peggy, who did not have a very large fortune, began to travel across Europe and became interested in the art world and in artists like Max Ernst among others. Her father had made poor investment choices in Paris and gone down with the Titanic in 1912. At the beginning of the century, he had commissioned a painting of his two daughters, Peggy and Benita, from the German portraitist Franz von Lenbach. You will find a time line and films tracing the lives of both collectors in the documentary section set in the underground vaults. Both of these socialites shared a strong desire to establish a modern art museum. And each of them achieved that dream, without any public support, let’s stress that point.
In the chronology of the exhibition, the surrealist movement is at the beginning, with Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington and Matta, a protégé of Peggy’s. Jackson Pollock is present with works spanning 1940-1946 and the first drippings of 1949-1950, as well as a rare series of silkscreen prints. And then we find works by Rothko, Gottlieb, Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis and two women, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell. A great introduction to the early sixties ! In parallel, we follow the evolution of painting in Europe with Jorn, Vedova, Dubuffet with five major works, Burri, and three works by Fontana. Post-painterly Abstraction is represented by Stella, Noland, Morris Lewis, two Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly and Barbara Hepworth. This provides a multifaceted overview of a great era which we rarely get to see in Belgium. The Art team of ING managed to improve the rather uninviting space of the ground floor by hiding it behind large drapes in different colours. The exhibition course is much more straightforward as a result.
Guggenheim, Full Abstraction
ING Art Center
6 place Royale
Until 12 February
Tuesdays – Sundays, from 10:00h to 18:00h
Nocturnes on Wednesdays until 21:00h