Peggy Guggenheim Heirs Sue Guggenheim Foundation to Stop Outside Shows at Venice Palazzo

The bitter legal feud continues.

Peggy Guggenheim for Look magazine (1966). Photo: by Tony Vaccaro.
Peggy Guggenheim for Look magazine (1966). Photo: by Tony Vaccaro.

The descendants of heiress, art collector, and patron Peggy Guggenheim are launching yet another appeal in a French court tomorrow against the Guggenheim Foundation over the management of her vast art collection, housed in an 18th century palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal, AFP reports.

After years of collecting art, Guggenheim settled in Venice, where she purchased Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in 1949. She moved to the palazzo, which she also used to house and display her fabulous collection of 326 artworks, including pieces by Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, and Salvador Dalí (see Peggy Guggenheim Documentary by Lisa Immordino-Vreeland Reveals Life of Nonstop Art and Sex).

Shortly before her death in 1979, she handed over the management of the palazzo and the collection to the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation in New York. But Sandro Rumney, one of Peggy’s grandsons and a former art dealer, isn’t happy with how the foundation is running the collection, and hasn’t been for the last 20 years.

The crux of his complaint lays in the fact that works from other collections are now being displayed at the palazzo, alongside those from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

In 2013, experts hired by Rumney found that the display in the palazzo contained 94 pieces from the Guggenheim collection and 75 works from the Rudolph B. and Hannelore B. Schulhof collection, AFP reports.

That same year, a plaque in the museum’s entrance featuring the names of the Schulhofs was installed next to the name of the museum’s founder, which didn’t go down well with Rumney and his family either.

Olivier Morice, Rumney’s lawyer, said the plaintiffs are calling for the collection to be restored to its original configuration, “respecting the wishes of Peggy Guggenheim to see the collection intact.” They also want to enforce protection of the area in the palazzo’s garden where Peggy Guggenheim’s ashes were buried—alongside her 14 dogs—a burial site they believe has been desecrated by successive rentals of the garden to donors.

The legal feud has been ongoing since 1994, when a Paris court threw out the first complaint launched by Rumney, ruling that the collection could not be considered “protected.”

Undeterred, in May 2014, Rumney and his half-brother Nicolas Hélion—both sons of Pegeen Vail, daughter of Peggy Guggeheim—went back to court hoping to be able to prove that their grandmother’s heritage had been denigrated (see Peggy Guggenheim’s Descendants Sue Guggenheim Foundation).

But in July, the Paris lower court referred back to the 1994 court decision and ruled that the family had to pay the Foundation about $41,000 to cover legal costs (see Peggy Guggenheim Descendants’ Suit Against Foundation Dismissed).

The Guggenheim Foundation has staunchly denied the accusations throughout, declaring at the time: “Despite the frivolous lawsuit, the Foundation has worked to make the name of Peggy Guggenheim and the renown of her achievements more celebrated than ever before” (see Have Peggy Guggenheim’s Descendants Violated Her Wishes?).

The Foundation has also been keen to assert that several descendants, through Peggy Guggenheim’s only son and heir, Sindbad Vail, have been constant in their support of the Guggenheim Foundation and have even spoken out against the lawsuit (see Peggy Guggenheim’s Other Descendants Denounce Lawsuit).

It’s proving to be a complicated spring for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. As well as facing a new lawsuit, the Venice museum was the target of a protest, organized by the activist group Gulf Labor, during the preview of this year’s Venice Biennale (see Gulf Labor Stages Protest at Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice).


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