Collecting as Creativity and a Side Dish of Philanthropy.

Do you have to be in love with art to be a collector? Is creative collecting exclusive?

Have you ever really thought about what drives the collector to spend time and money buying works of art, and then promoting them, for the prosperity of others? I know I have. As I wandered around the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, back in 2017, I was struck by its magnitude; but mainly by the foresight and philanthropy of the owner Peggy Guggenheim. 

Peggy, a third-generation American great grand-daughter of Jewish immigrants, is the epitome of a creative collector and philanthropist. There can be no doubt in the mind of any visitor to Bilbao that commercialism is the by-product of the enduring love of art felt by Peggy and others; which in turn enables the artist to go on making works of art for the rest of us to enjoy.

This is true of the Maeght Foundation, not so well known as the Guggenheim Foundation but equally important as commentator and influencer. Aime Maeght and Peggy Guggenheim, born eight years apart, shared love for collecting art long before their foundations collaborated. Both understood the importance of encouraging the emergence of new talent and supporting artists so that they could realize their creative dreams.

Aime Maeght born in 1906, the son of a railway engineer in northern France, became the main bread-winner of the family when his father went missing in action during World War One. This early introduction to hardship gave Aime the motivation to succeed and laid the foundations of hard work as a driving force throughout his life.

In 1927 Aime met his wife Marguerite and they were married for over 50 years. Marguerite was instrumental in translating Aime’s dreams into the reality we see today.

Maeght, talented in his own right, trained as an engraver and in 1932 Aime and Marguerite opened a printing house in Cannes, specialising in art and graphic techniques.

After the war, without knowing it, Peggy and Aime travelled the same path; launching themselves into their passion for art. Aime opened the Galerie Maeght in Paris in 1945. 

Peggy had already established the Art of This Century Gallery in Manhattan in 1938, closing the gallery in 1947 in order to return to Europe when she moved to Venice to live on the Grand Canal. They continued collecting both art and artists in earnest as they moved through to the 1950s. 

Aime and his family became well known and influential, living and promoting art in all forms; citing Matisse, Miro, Chagall and Calder as close friends.

In Venice, Peggy promoted the art of two local Venetian painters, Edmondo Bacci with his work ‘Avvenimento #247’, and Tancredi Parmeggiani with his biographical artwork ‘Tancredi’, and was instrumental in the production of their paintings exhibited in the Galleria del Cavallino in 1955.

The foundations dedicated to the preservation of art for all.

After the death of Aime’s youngest son in 1954 Aime and his wife Marguerite, on the advice of a close friend and artist Fernand Leger, visited America to seek the guidance of the Guggenheim Foundation. Peggy Guggenheim’s uncle, Solomon R Guggenheim, created the Guggenheim foundation in 1937 for exactly the same philanthropic reasons as Maeght had endeavoured to recreate. The help was invaluable.

Over the next 10 years, the Maeght foundation became a place where artists congregated to work and exchange ideas. The Maeght Foundation in Nice was formally introduced in 1964 by the French culture minister of the time, Andre Malraux, to glorious acclaim; celebrating the fact it was the first foundation of its type in Europe to celebrate the work of living artists, sculptors and, latterly, photographers. 

Peggy’s legacy lives on at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and is the inspiration for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

To answer the question, do you have to be in love with art to be a collector? Is creative collecting exclusive? Yes, it’s like anything in life, if you don’t love it, if you’re not consumed by it, your art will not be a collection, just a fad. No, creative collecting is not exclusive. It’s as exclusive as you want it to be and as exclusive as funds permit.

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