Installation view of “Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Photo: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Peggy Guggenheim’s Heirs Accuse Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation of Ignoring Her Wishes

In an ongoing dispute between the descendants of collector Peggy Guggenheim and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy’s great-grandchildren claim that the museum’s current New York exhibition violates conditions stipulated when Peggy gifted the foundation her collection, Cristina Ruiz of the Art Newspaper reports.

On view until September 6, “Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim,” features twenty-one works from the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice by artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollock. Her family members assert that Peggy did not want the works to leave the city between April and November, when Venice receives the most tourist traffic.

Peggy’s great-grandson Sindbad Rumney-Guggenheim said that many of the collection’s major works will be in New York during the Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale. “That’s going to be detrimental to any tourist who’s visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.”

Rumney-Guggenheim is one of the family members who have sued the foundation, alleging mismanagement and claiming that it is violating Peggy’s legacy by not adhering to her vision for the collection. A Paris court of appeal dismissed the most recent case against the institution in 2015.

The condition that the family declares is being disregarded was included in a letter written by Peggy on January 27, 1969. She wrote to her cousin Harry, the foundation’s then-president, informing him of her wish to have works from her collection remain in Venice during the tourist season.

It was originally accepted by the board of trustees and incorporated into a document outlining the transfer of ownership of modern art from the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation on October 8, 1974. However, the condition was not included in a deed of gift that was signed in front of an Italian notary on January 23, 1976. This document is the legal contract that judges have been referencing when making their rulings.

According to a letter written by the law firm of White & Case on behalf of the foundation and sent to the IRS in 1976, the foundation acknowledged that the deed of gift signed in Italy was more of a formality prompted by the Italian government and that ownership had already been transferred in 1969. Yet a spokesperson for the foundation agrees with the courts and states that the “operative document” is the deed of gift. She also said that none of the grandchildren from Peggy’s son Michael Sindbad Vail, who was the executor of her estate, have filed complaints.