The 18th century Palazzo Venier dei Leoni was intended as a four-storey palace, but it never rose above the ground floor. Hence, its nickname, Il Palazzo Non Finito (The Unfinished Palace).
In 1949 the building was bought as a home by the American millionairess Peggy Guggenheim, a collector, dealer and patron of the arts. A high-spirited woman, she befriended and furthered the careers of many innovative and abstract artists, one of whom, Max Ernst, became her second husband.
The Peggy Guggenheim collection consists of 200 paintings and sculptures, representing almost every modern art movement. The dining room has notable Cubist works of art, including The Poet by Pablo Picasso.
An entire room is devoted to Jackson Pollock, who was a Guggenheim discovery. Other artists represented are Miro, de Chirico, Magritte, Kandinsky, Mondrian and Malevich.
Sculptures are laid out in both the house and garden. One of the most elegant works is Constantin Brancusi’s Maiastra.
The Guggenheim is one of the most visited sights of the city. The light-filled rooms and large modern canvases provide a striking contrast to the Renaissance paintings which are the main attractions in Venetian churches and museums.
During her lifetime Peggy Guggenheim held open house several days a week to allow art lovers to admire her collection. She also hosted regular parties which often descended into scandalous revelry. Having inherited her fortune from her father, who went down with the Titanic, she would often lead her guests, band included, down into the Canal to re-enact her father’s demise!
The museum has a restaurant, café and gift shop.