Movie review: ‘Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict’ at the Modern

How do you become one of the 20th century’s most influential art collectors if you are neither stunningly beautiful nor as wealthy an heiress as your family name suggests? Having lots and lots of sex with artists certainly helps.

The late Peggy Guggenheim became a kind of arts patron who never existed before. She collected her personal trove (approximate cost, $40,000; estimated value, billions and billions) through marriages, affairs and trysts with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Alexander Calder and Samuel Beckett.

This documentary portrait by Lisa Immordino Vreeland includes Guggenheim’s lengthy final recorded interview, revealing the colorful character whose artistic taste was more avant-garde than her time and helped define modern art in the postwar world. Guggenheim transferred works she kept in her garage to the ramp of her uncle’s sprawling New York City museum, creating a mirror for her iconoclastic attitude and take-charge personality.

Considering her eccentric, wide-ranging relationships, one acquaintance declares “she was talked about as such a slut for doing the same thing all the men were doing.” Another says “Peggy was sort of a model for the modern liberated woman.”

“Did you feel it was a crazy life?” she is asked. And answers “Definitely, yes.” The film, including an on-screen salute by Robert De Niro for Guggenheim’s early support for his father and mother’s art, is one of the most entertaining art history lessons in ages.

Exclusive: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

(out of five)

Director: Lisa Immortino Vreeland

Cast: Peggy Guggenheim, Marina Abramovic

Rated: Unrated (strong language)

Running time: 96 min.