Art, Sex, and Jewishness: Peggy Guggenheim as a Modern Object
Today, Peggy Guggenheim (born 1898, died 1979) is remembered for her incredible collection of modern art. Beyond her collection, however, she was an interesting character. She ignited issues of art, sex, and Jewishness in her time, and her legacy remains controversial. This thesis seeks to explain why. To do so, it will rely primarily on Guggenheim’s memoir, which she revisited throughout her life and published in 1946, 1960, and 1979.
The first chapter will consider how Guggenheim came to promote art and champion the avant-garde. Because Guggenheim is principally remembered as a collector, any thorough investigation of her life and legacy must discuss her art world activities. After establishing this background, the second chapter will explore how Guggenheim’s gender proved both an advantage and a vulnerability throughout her lifetime. It will look at her narration of sex, abuse, friendships, and affairs within the memoir, and how this narration rankled biographers and reviewers alike. Finally, the third chapter will investigate Guggenheim’s complex Jewish identity, and how this identity was further complicated by World War II and subsequent reactions to it.