National Pavilion UAE - The Palazzo Venier dei Leoni|By Humaid Mansoor
  • The Palazzo Venier dei Leoni|By Humaid Mansoor

    According to historical records the origins of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni date back to the mid-18th Century. What is seen of the structure today is a fraction of what was initially designed; there are many theories as to why the palace wasn’t completed the way it was initially envisioned. However, it wasn’t until nearly 200 years after it was constructed the Palazzo took on the popular identity of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

    It’s safe to say that much like many other structures in Venice, this particular Palazzo has a rich history. By virtue of the events that transpired at the time it was conceived, and the circumstances that led to it being constructed up to the point that we see it today, it forms the perfect setting for the eclectic collection of art pieces that are on display.

    Walking into the main courtyard, one is immediately greeted with an assortment of sculptures and installations. It is clear that there was some thought put into which piece should be displayed where, but what was most interesting was that each of the bigger sculptures drew you into something smaller or less conspicuous. I felt like I was walking in a garden that belonged to someone who was not only keen on greenery, but someone who was also very clearly inspired by aesthetics of structures that enhance the overall sensory experience.

    The main courtyard branched off into two smaller enclosures, which again had many individual pieces for the visitor to enjoy. I spent a lot of time outside the actual museum building, and the more I walked around it, the more I felt as if the sculptures and installations were actually designed for the space that they occupied. I got a sense that each piece had a purpose, and it gave me an insight into what kind of person Peggy Guggenheim might have been.

    Unlike other museums, I had prepared myself to visit Peggy’s personal collection of art pieces, and not knowing much about her, I thought it would consist primarily of classical art pieces. Being a lover of modern art (and an artist as well), I was pleasantly surprised by her collection of paintings and sculptures both inside the Palazzo and outside.

    The feeling of being in a personal space is further extended when one walks into the actual museum – or what was once Peggy’s home. Having visited many exhibitions and museums in the past, this visit will definitely stay with me for two main reasons. One of the reasons being that I feel the visitors are taken back in time, and are given a very candid glimpse into who Peggy was as a person – all this through her art.

    Some say that Peggy happened to be at the right place and at the right time. Not one with an extensive background on art, she happened to collect great art pieces within a short period of time for affordable prices. Apparently a lot of the artists wanted to get rid of their art for cheap during the 1930s anticipating the start of the Second World War, and her prowess allowed her to amass a large collection within a fairly short amount of time.

    Walking from room to room, the visitor is taken on a journey through Peggy’s life. Each room is indicative of a certain period of her life and the movement from one room to the next narrates this story very well. Within a very short period I came face to face with works from a very impressive list of artists including Picasso, Dali, Magritte, Duchamp, Kandinsky, and Max Ernst – to name a few. However, I wasn’t overwhelmed as I felt quite at ‘home’.

    Throughout my visit, I would keep thinking to myself that if I had had a house, I would have wanted to display all kinds of art just the way Peggy had done while she was alive – assuming that I could of course invest in such pieces. My visit came to a halt when I came across one of the rooms towards the back, which brings me to my second reason for not being able to forget this visit anytime soon.

    This whole room was dedicated to works by Jackson Pollock – the only other room in the entire museum to be dedicated to a single artist, other than the one that displays the works of Pegeen, Peggy’s daughter. Being an abstract artist myself, I came across Pollock’s work years ago, and was fascinated by the work that he did – and acted as a sort of inspiration for the work that I do. Each stroke of his had a clear purpose, and added to the overall story of every painting.

    To be standing in a room that told a narrative of Pollock’s life through his work left me speechless. There were six paintings in all, with his early works clearly influenced by Picasso, and then the progression over the years into the kind of work that he is famous for. Having seen Pollock’s work only in pictures, I was initially in shock because of my appreciation of the work that surrounded me on all sides.

    I later found out that Pollock had actually worked as a carpenter in Solomon Guggenheim’s museum and Peggy decided to give him a chance to produce some artwork for her based on some sketches that she had seen. Soon this relationship developed and she started commissioning his work on a regular basis. Had it not been for this coincidence, the world might have never known of Pollock and his abstract world of drip paintings.

    By far, one of my favorite excursions in Venice, and one that I will most probably visit again before I come back home.

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