May 25, 2008 - Galleria Gottardo - Ethnopassion
May 25, 2008


Reliquary Figure
Gabon, Kota, Africa
Wood and Brass
Height: 57 cm
Copyright: Paolo Manusardi, Milano

Peggy Guggenheim’s ethnic art collection
28 May – 23 August 2008

From 28 May to 23 August, the Galleria Gottardo in Lugano will be holding the world’s first exhibition of the ethnic artworks collected by one of the twentieth century’s greatest art patrons: Peggy Guggenheim. The idea behind the exhibition is to display the “exotic objects” that embellished the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni during the collector’s lifetime. Since her death, they have been carefully restored and examined by scientific researchers. The restoration project was jointly launched by Galleria Gottardo, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Museum of Cultures in Lugano with the aim of rediscovering the specific meaning of each object in itself and in the context in which it was purchased.

Peggy Guggenheim’s passion for ethnic art dated back to the period of her tempestuous relationship with Max Ernst, who was a keen collector of this kind of art. When their relationship broke down in 1943, the artist left with all the works in his collection. After settling permanently in Venice and opening her collection to the general public, Peggy rekindled her interest in ethnic art, and, from 1959, she began to acquire works and exhibit them in her home, mixing them with contemporary artworks as she felt inclined. She developed a genuine passion, an involuntary, unconscious attraction for these objects, which was rooted in purely phenomenal interest: she never felt a great need to find out more about their meaning and value. She appreciated their decorative nature, using them as a means of enhancing her interior design and keeping up with the latest fashions.

Based on photographs from the period and the scarce information available on the subject, it is thought that her private collection consisted of around 50 artworks, mainly from Africa and Oceania; 35 of these remained in the estate of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, where they have been conserved in the museum’s art storage.

The exotic artefacts had always been considered valuable as part of Peggy’s collection, but with uncertainty about the intrinsic value of the items in question when examined outside the classical canons of conventionally understood art in the West.

One of the aims of the “Ethnopassion” exhibition is to transform this view, giving these objects not just the value that they have in the intellectual context that fanned Peggy Guggenheim’s interest for ethnic art, but also an anthropological value arising from the study of the objects and their links with various periods
and cultures.

The mandate for the scientific analysis of the collection was given to the
Museum of Cultures of the City of Lugano, under the direction of Francesco Paolo Campione. Thanks to him and his staff, in-depth analysis, including the accurate restoration of the objects, the creation of frames and supports, philological research and scientific classification of the works, visitors to the Galleria Gottardo can admire these artworks in their new found splendour and let their imaginations wander in the magical atmosphere that reigned in Peggy Guggenheim’s palace on the banks of Venice’s Canal Grande, where art, style, passion and creativity met.

The exhibition is curated by Franco Rogantini, Director of Galleria Gottardo and by Philip Rylands, Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
Exhibition design and graphic design of the catalogue by Theredbox.

Press conference: Tuesday 27 May 2008 at 11 am
Vernissage: Tuesday 27 May 2008 from 6 pm to 8 pm
Exhibition dates: 28 May – 23 August 2008
Opening hours: Tuesday 2 pm – 5 pm; Wednesday – Saturday 11 am – 5 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday. Admission free
Catalogue: Ethnopassion – Peggy Guggenheim’s ethnic art collection.
(Italian/English) edited by Francesco Paolo Campione
published by Edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta s.r.l.
(ISBN 978-88-202-1879-9)

Galleria Gottardo a cultural foundation of Banca del Gottardo has been organising exhibitions since 1989, with the collaboration of museums, cultural institutions and collectors. In over 15 years of quality exhibitions it has explored human activities pointing at the innumerable facets of art and photography, of ethnography and archaeology, of design and peculiar objects that throughout the years have become the fount of interesting collections and publications. Bearing in mind the geo-linguistic position of our region, the Galleria Gottardo sets itself as a meeting point, a crossing and exchange point between Northern and Southern cultures. Its publishing activity has attained great importance within the framework of its production especially as far as texts and page proof are concerned and the quality of its catalogues. The Galleria Gottardo’s strong point is its availability to dialogue which allows it to find important partners for the realisation of new projects and start long-lasting collaborations.


Galleria Gottardo
Viale Stefano Franscini 12
6901 Lugano, Switzerland
Tel. +41 91 808 1988
Fax +41 91 808 2447

Via Natta 22
I – 22100 Como
Tel. +39 031 269 393
Fax +39 031 267 265

Galleria Gottardo
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