“My pavilion was being done over by [Carlo] Scarpa, who was the most modern architect in Venice. [...] My exhibition had enormous publicity and the pavilion was one of the most popular of the Biennale.”
- Peggy Guggenheim, Out of This Century (London: Andre Deutsch, 1979)
Peggy Guggenheim’s participation in the 1948 Venice Biennale (June 6–September 30, 1948) was a landmark event. Not only was it the first display of a comprehensive modern art collection in Italy after two decades of dictatorial regime, but also the first showing of Peggy’s collection in Europe, following the end of the Second World War and her move to Venice from New York, where she closed her museum-gallery Art of This Century (1942-47).
Peggy exhibited her collection in the Pavilion of Greece, then ravaged by the civil war. Her participation was upon the invitation of then Secretary General of the Biennale Rodolfo Pallucchini, on the advice of the artist Giuseppe Santomaso. At a time when the Italian Pavilion was dominated by Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, more than any other exhibition in that Biennale, Peggy’s collection surveyed the most contemporary art. This included Cubism, Futurism, abstraction, Surrealism, and, above all, Abstract Expressionism, the latest development of American art. It was the European debut of Jackson Pollock’s art and the first appearance outside the United States of a new generation of American painters, including William Baziotes, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Peggy exhibited 136 works of art, over 20 of which she subsequently donated to museums worldwide.
The celebrated Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa designed the installation of the pavilion: his architectural sensibility reflected in the arrangement of the works of art, as formal ‘dialogues’ and affinities between their geometric details abounded. The sign “Collezione Peggy Guggenheim” at the entrance of pavilion was also drawn by Scarpa.