One of the responsibilities one undertakes when galavanting around the planet is exposing one’s self to the local history and culture. In a word: museums. To that end, on September 25th, 2016 I spent my last full day in Venice squeezing in every bit of history and culture that I could get my hands on.
Following a neck-twisting and mouth-gaping ring around the canals courtesy of the dying minutes of my 24-hour water-bus pass I sandwiched a slab of culture in between two slices of history when I took in the Peggy Guggenheim Museum immediately after visiting the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum (which was excellent) and just before touring Venice’s Musical Instrument Museum (which was also pretty excellent).
(Okay, there was a slice of pizza eaten by the canal in there somewhere – all this talk of sandwiches must have made me hungry.)
When Peggy Guggenheim turned 21 (in 1919) she inherited two-and-a-half million bucks from her late father (who died on or around the Titanic), an amount that would be worth almost forty million today. And her dad was the least wealthy of his siblings! Anyways, she was loaded, and she really got into the bohemian lifestyle.
She also loved art, and she made a point of buying exclusively from living, working artists of her time. In the late ’40’s she moved to Venice and bought a fabulous house on the choicest spot of the Grand Canal (again, who wouldn’t?), where she lived and publicly displayed her growing collection for the rest of her long, probably very happy, gallivanting life.
Entering the courtyard to start the visit I encountered tons of cool sculptures. They weren’t very big (or inordinately heavy, I assume), so that means there were lots of them. Going in the house, the welcoming foyer is almost entirely taken up by one of Alexander Calder’s mesmerizing mobiles. Dude invented the mobile as an art form and he was pretty good at it…I wonder if he gets royalties for all the mobiles dangling over cribs worldwide?
Carrying on, it’s room after spectacular room of incredible modern art from the likes of Pollock, Picasso, Mondrian, Klee, and Magritte to name just a few. Oh, the culture! Remember, only living artists at the time, so there are no Van Gogh’s or Rembrandt’s cluttering up the place. The collection is truly astounding, and so very well presented.
Out on the terrace that overlooks the canal (gosh, I just couldn’t imagine how great it must have been to live in the place) was my favourite piece of all, a sculpture by Marini called Angel of the City.
Google it. I even bought the t-shirt.
After winding through the rest of the collection I went back out to the terrace for another gape at the Marini piece and a final sigh at the dream-like view over Venice’s Grand Canal.
Back on the street…er…canal I topped the open-faced tourist sandwich with the aforementioned Musical Instruments Museum before dining at Venice’s oldest restaurant and enjoying a nightcap in the form of a drastically overpriced Bellini in the very bar where the drink was created – Harry’s – before strolling arm-in-arm with m’lady through the Piazza San Marco, an historic and cultural square if there ever was one.
Again, all of this gallivanting comes with responsibilities.