An insider's look at Peggy Guggenheim: A Collection in Venice


Are you ready? Peggy’s just around the corner!

There are only two days to go until Peggy Guggenheim: A Collection in Venice is open to the public! All of the artworks have made it through quarantine and have arrived safe and sound. Staff are busy finalising arrangements for the opening event, which has SOLD OUT! It will certainly be a night to remember.

I’m looking forward to a busy day on Friday, where I will be lending a hand at the media launch – stay tuned for the inside scoop. I will also be working at the special Guggenheim shop for the next couple of months, so pop in to say hello and pick up some Felicity Peters jewellery, some Kiesler-style furniture, or choose from a huge range of books. Remember, Christmas is coming!

If you’re coming to the Gallery on Sunday, join our free Sunday Session talk with Leigh Robb in the theatrette from 2pm. Numbers are limited, so get in quick! Remember, you can purchase our audio tour to accompany your exhibition experience, or you can book a group tour through the Gallery, sharing the experience with friends. Kids can enjoy an interactive children’s trail, free with admission. The Youth Photography Competition is set to be launched at the opening, giving young photographers the chance to win great prizes and show off their skills.

Bring the kids, bring your nan, bring your neighbours! I will see you at the opening weekend festivities.

— Tegan the Intern

Interview with Leigh Robb

Leigh Robb – PICA Curator and guest lecturer for Peggy Guggenheim: A Collection in Venice

Tell me a bit about your career path.

I studied art history at the University of Queensland. While I was a student, I volunteered and interned at the Queensland Art Gallery, first working as a research assistant for the curator of prints, drawings and photographs, and then getting involved with the website. I curated my first show in my third year at Metro Arts in Brisbane.

I started an internship at the Guggenheim museum straight after I graduated. From there I ran the internship program, then I came back as internship manager, and then I came back again after working in Milan. I ran the education program at the Guggenheim for two years, then went to London to do my masters at Courtauld.

I worked at Thomas Dane Gallery for four years. I was Associate Director by the time I’d left and had worked with some really amazing artists including Steve McQueen, Paul Pfeiffer, Michael Landy, Glenn Ligon – the Gallery represents over 18 international and British artists and so I worked with them on a lot of their exhibitions. I curated on the side while I was there, and got to a point where I wanted to be curating more directly, and I interacting with the public. I wanted to support my generation of artists.

Why is this collection so important?

For me, it’s like seeing old friends. I think I know those artworks better than I know any other piece. It’s quite incredible to have a relationship with paintings that’s personal and professional. It’s such an important exhibition, they’re textbook modern artworks so they were really key in terms of engaging in a really avant-garde time.

It’s incredibly rare for so many pieces to leave the collection at any one time, so to have thirty works from her collection leave the palace and come as far as Australia – it’s a big undertaking in terms of their conservation, their safety – to be able to see such iconic works so far from their home is such a privilege.

Any internship stories?

There’d always be occasions when we’d open the museum late on a Sunday evening for private tours. I remember taking Jude Law and Sienna Miller through the collection, and then they had cocktails on the roof. I met Bette Midler, Antony Hopkins – there were a lot of people who came through Venice because it’s an incredibly romantic city. My internship also gave me great exposure to some of the most important patrons of the arts.

What do you love the most about Peggy?

I really do love Peggy, her vision and the way she supported the art of her time. What I love about Art of this Century is that she commissioned Frederick Kiesler to design these really radical spaces that allowed you to interact with the art. You could move paintings 360° and move them back and forth. He created a really surreal space. He also created an abstract gallery where works were suspended on string structures and you could see the paintings from the front and the back. She did some really great, ambitious shows, she really lived it.

She helped so many artists get out of Europe during the second world war, which shifted the centre of the art world from Paris to New York. The Guggenheim museum is such a well loved space. People feel a personal connection to her story and to the works, and those parallel stories help people to understand really complex ideas. You get such a rich history of modern art from that collection alone.

What can we expect from your talks?

I’ll be giving an illustrated lecture this Sunday at 2pm concentrating on Art of This Century, then I’ll give the Friends a walk-through. In December I’ll give a guided tour, focussing on the work of Mondrian and Pollock, and Peggy’s relationship with each of them.

Why should people come to see the show?

To get that calibre of work and to see them in your own city is such a privilege. Their cultural value in the world is extraordinary, they are precious pieces. Nowhere else in Australia is getting this opportunity. Also, Phillip Rylands is coming from Venice to share some of his insight. He’s always said his first and only job is to run that museum, which he’s done since the 70s. He knew her, so he has that connection. As an Australian student, you may never get the chance to see works like these outside of textbooks. To be in the space with the pieces, to see how they’re using paint, to see how sculptors are thinking about space and volume, is really incredible.

For some more internship stories and gems of wisdom from Leigh, follow this link:

Interview with Ashlee Brockway

Ashlee Brockway – Visitor Information Assistant at the Art Gallery of Western Australia

What is your role?

I’m the first point of contact for the public and representative of the staff. I take care of interactive spaces, and I make sure there are always flyers and information available. I get asked all sorts of things about the city, particularly regarding arts and culture. I also coordinate the volunteers.

How many volunteer applications did you receive?

I lost count after 180 – we’ve taken on 80 new people, and unfortunately we had to turn away people who were very excited to be involved.

What is the vibe at the front desk?

I’ve been here for 18 months and I’ve never seen people this excited. The fact that Perth is getting it, and it’s not going to the NGV or the NGA, makes it really special.

How are you feeling about the upcoming exhibition?

I’m looking forward to it. I love Magritte and Ernst, I’ve studied them at uni. I’ve been to Venice twice – it’s a brilliant collection and I’m proud that we’ll be hosting it.

What are you most looking forward to over the next couple of months?

Getting a diverse crowd in, not just the regulars. Plus I’ve never seen a Kandinsky!

Kiesler furniture exclusive to Perth!

To enhance your exhibition experience, these unique and incredibly versatile replicas of Frederick Kiesler’s furniture (all the way from Vienna) will feature in the exhibition space for you to sit in, and they will also be available for purchase from the gift shop. You could have a revolutionary piece of art in your own home!

Two weeks to go!

My morning started with the sweet smell of flowers brought into the office from the weekend’s Art in Bloom. The event was a smashing success, with almost 12,000 people visiting the Gallery, and around 250 tickets sold for the Guggenheim exhibition! As I wandered through the beautiful floral displays a stunning turqouise wall caught my eye – the finished paint job a reminder that Peggy is just around the corner.

Amid ailments, back problems, ferocious coughs and dreams of holidays in Mauritius, Gallery staff are keeping things rolling. Tickets to the Foundation’s preview events are selling fast, and after an hour of all-hands-on-deck envelope stuffing and sealing, invitations to the opening night are ready to go in the post. We were all excited to see a feature in today’s West (which you can find in the Arts section of the Entertainment liftout), and we even got a mention on the Facebook page of the Guggenheim Museum in Venice!

Stay tuned, because the next fortnight is going to be a lot of fun. I hope you’ve got your tickets!

— Tegan the Intern

Interview with Maria Gabriel

Maria Gabriel – Retail and Merchandising Manager at the Art Gallery of Western Australia

Describe a day in your shoes

Sore! Extremely busy, challenging, a lot of fun, creative. The main joy is deciding what concept we’re going with each season. There is a lot of forward thinking – I’ve bought in eighteen months prior the exact thing that I think is going to be spot on for this weekend of Art in Bloom, and it’s just great seeing these ideas come together. From tomorrow afternoon Art in Bloom will be up, and I’m already thinking, next week we start the Guggenheim shop, and the following week we start pulling all the stock out for Christmas.

How are you feeling about the upcoming exhibition?

Excited. I’m confident that the catalogue will sell – it’s a comprehensive look at the artists and the collection. I want visitors to enjoy that lovely feeling at the end of an exhibition where the experience has been so rewarding that you want to shop for something to take home with you. This is also the first international show we’ve had with Stefano on board, so there’ll be an added excitement.

What can we expect from the Guggenheim shop?

We’re setting up a second shop with some incredible books. It’s been fun to reflect Venice – the sale of our masks prior to the exhibition demonstrates people’s eagerness to see a little bit of that. So we’ve brought in some Murano glass jewellery, and an extensive collection of items from the Guggenheim museum.

Local jeweller Felicity Peters is doing some retro recycled jewellery, she’s made blob rings that look like chocolates ready to go in the oven, each with a little jewel, and after I told her that Peggy’s favourite colour was turquoise, she melted down old knitting needles into cuffs with glitter blue turquoise in them. We’re not only reflecting the show but also reflecting local jewellery designers. There will hardly be a thing in the shop that isn’t blue or white or silver or black.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Gallery full. I’m always excited when we have international shows because it creates a renewed energy amongst everybody. It doesn’t matter how worn out you get, you always get such a buzz when you see the end result.

Gallery in Bloom

Plants are arriving, bugs are being sprayed, a gorgeous ‘lotus’ pond has been installed in front of the Gallery and there are metal flowers cascading from the shop roof. Preparations are well under way for this weekend’s Art in Bloom, that time of year when dedicated Gallery staff have the perfect excuse to stop and smell the roses.

Meanwhile, up in administration, shrieks of laughter resonate through the rooms, reflecting a change in mood. The sky outside is clear and blue, and with just over three weeks to go until the launch of Peggy Guggenheim: A Collection in Venice, everything is finally coming together.

T-shirts are arriving, catalogues are at the printers, and some fantastic local jewellery is coming in for the Guggenheim shop. Email inboxes are no longer bursting at the seams and the phones are quiet. There are plenty of early mornings and late nights to come, but as Di so eloquently put it, we simply have to “enjoy!” the journey.

– Tegan the Intern