Museum: Peggy Guggenheim Collection at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni

by Elena Peverata
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

An ancient 18th century building turned into one of the most important modern art museums in Italy

Besides its temporary exhibitions, the museum boasts one of the most important permanent collections of 20th century art in Europe, including collections of Cubist, Futurist, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist art, with works by almost 200 artists, including Picasso, Pollock, Kandinsky, Mirò, De Chirico and Dalì.

Located on the left-hand side of the Grand Canal, just beyond the Church of the Madonna della Salute, you will come across a building that seems strange and unfinished, but is also elegant and well-tended. The Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, formerly home to the prominent and powerful Venier family, was originally planned to become one of the most sumptuous buildings in Venice.

Terrace over the Grand Canal photo credits Adriano under c.c 3.0 licence
Terrace of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection over the Grand Canal photo credits Adriano under c.c 3.0 licence

The History of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni

Construction of the palazzo began in or around 1748, but was halted after only one floor was completed. Undeterred by its rather sketchy shape, and upon seeing the palazzo with its beautiful garden, eccentric American heiress Peggy Guggenheim, a lover of modern art, la dolce vita and men, fell in love with it. She purchased Palazzo Venier in 1948, and moved in with her collection of contemporary art, subsequently opening both the palazzo and her extraordinary collection of artworks to the public.

The Facade of Peggy Guggenheim Museum
The Facade of Peggy Guggenheim Museum
A portrait of Peggy Guggenheim
A portrait of Peggy Guggenheim

In 1980, after her death, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection was bequeathed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which also manages the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. In 1985, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni was officially converted into a museum. Today, thanks to its 20th century collection of art, it is considered one of the most important museums in Europe.

Who was Peggy Guggenheim?

The niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, Peggy was born in New York in 1898 into a wealthy Jewish family. Following the death of her father on the Titanic in 1912, Peggy Guggenheim inherited a small fortune, becoming one of the richest women in America. She lived between Paris and London. She became a patron of the arts and a collector of contemporary art. Peggy was always surrounded by artists and lovers: she married the writer and Dadaist painter Laurence Vail and then Surrealist artist Max Ernst. After opening an art gallery in London and another in New York, in 1948 Peggy was invited to exhibit her collection of paintings at the Biennale of Venice. She fell in love with the city where she spent the rest of her life. She died in 1979 and her ashes are buried in a corner of the garden of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.

Peggy Guggenheim at the Biennale photo credits Dino Jarach
Peggy Guggenheim at the Biennale photo credits Dino Jarach


Open Wed-Mon 10am-6pm.
Closed on Tuesdays and 25 December.

Full price ticket 15 euro.

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Dorsoduro 701 (Canal Grande).
Sestiere Dorsoduro

WATER BOAT: Vaporetto line 2 (Accademia stop) or vaporetto line 1 (Accademia stop or Salute stop)

+39 041 2405.440/419


GPS: 45.43082, 12.33153
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