The exhibition, Masterpieces from the Guggenheim collection. From Picasso to Pollock manages to combine two unusual events: bringing together over one hundred and twenty masterpieces from the history of art in the first half of the twentieth century and bringing out the personalities of the two major collectors, on whom the foundations of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York were made. Thus, this exhibition presents the history of art interwoven between works of art and the story of a collection made up mainly by the legacies of Solomon R. Guggenheim (Philadelphia, 1861-New York, 1949) and his niece Peggy Guggenheim (New York, 1898-Padua, Italy, 1979), to which other funds and acquisitions made over the history of the institution have been added.
The origin of Solomon R. Guggenheim’s collection and his commerce is found in the consultation, involvement and personality of Hilla Rebay (Strasbourg, France, 1890-Connecticut, USA, 1967), a fervent admirer of the work of Wassily Kandinsky, his writings (especially Concerning the Spiritual in Art) and the theosophical theories advocated by Rudolf Steiner. Her purpose for being the first director of the Guggenheim's Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939 (renamed in 1952 as the current, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), was to create a collection of "non-objective art", without object (Kandinskesque gegenstandslos), which was understood as pure artistic invention that differed from abstract art, which she considered the "aesthetic derivation of forms found in nature." Rebay's task of finding the great works of art that did not have an object - and thus confirm her idea of a non-objective art which would make man more spiritual - explains the large number of paintings by Kandinsky in the Guggenheim collection, as well as his outstanding contribution in this sample, with sixteen works ranging from landscapes from 1909 to the "Improvisations" of 1912, in addition to paintings of recreational elements from the Forties. They also exemplify the aesthetic principle that guided her acquisitions: organismic reliefs by Jean Arp, Robert Delaunay’s simultaneous work and Piet Mondrian’s two versions of Still Life with Ginger Pot (1911-1912).
As a counterbalance and complement, Peggy Guggenheim focused her collection on the most prominent artists of the European avant-garde in the early twentieth century, the majority coming from Cubist and Futurist trends. Her collection grew through the close contact she had with various European artistic and intellectual circles in the late Thirties and early Forties, particularly the surreal, and because of her work as a gallery owner and patron (especially Max Ernst and Jackson Pollock.)
Masterpieces from the Guggenheim collection combines both collections forming a visual journey through the history of the classic avant-garde, which in the case of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is presented on two floors; showing on one floor an emblematic representation of the collection, while the other shows an order which responds to a merely chronological criterion.
Palazzo Grassi, Venice; Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo