Grandes Modernos at Centro Cultural La Moneda

"This is very unique for us" says museum goer and painter Daniela Banderas, "because Chile missed out on a lot of the modern artwork. We don´t get to see much of it in person." She's talking about the Peggy Guggenheim Venice collection, which has taken up residence in the Centro Cultural La Moneda until February 26th.

 Roberto Matta, The Un-Nominator Renominated, 1952–53
Roberto Matta, The Un-Nominator Renominated, 1952–53

Large scale paintings by Picasso, Kandinsky, Albers, and Pollack are just a few highlights of the exhibit's select 170 pieces, none of which have ever been shown before in Chile. The show also features a great selection of black and white photographs of Miss Guggenheim and her circle of creative friends through the years, as well as her famous bat glasses (later bought by Karl Lagerfield) and a pair of sculptural earrings given to her by Alexander Calder.

 Peggy Guggenheim in a Venice hotel, 1948
Peggy Guggenheim in a Venice hotel, 1948

Guggenheim collected art for almost 4 decades (beginning in 1937) and was married twice to surrealist artists- first to Lawrence Vail and then to Max Ernst. However, she never seemed to feel the creative impulse herself, and the exhibit does not go into her personal workings much. Yet while you might leave feeling like she as a person is still a mystery, there is definitely an appreciation for her unwavering support of then-unknown artists like Jackson Pollack, whose career she is often credited with single-handedly launching. You will also probably leave with a sound understanding of how modern art came to be, thanks to the exhibit’s thorough explanations in both Spanish and English - something often lacking at other museums here in Santiago.

An interesting aspect of the show is the subtle connections made between the modern art movement, centralized mainly in Europe at first and then in New York, and Chile. The wealth of Guggenheim’s family came partially from investments in the Chilean mining industry, and a few pieces by Chilean artist Roberto Matta get a special spotlight. Matta, an artist of many media, is considered Chile’s most prominent surrealist representative.

 Max Ernst,  El Vestido de la Novia, 1940
Max Ernst, El Vestido de la Novia, 1940

Now, standing in front of a small piece by Mark Rothko, Banderas says, "I've never seen this one before, and we studied him a lot in my art classes." Banderas, who graduated from the Universidad de Chile with a degree in Fine Arts, contemplates the surreal composition for a few minutes - elemental figures in blue and red against a sand-colored background. It is quite different from Rothko's well known abstract color fields. After a moment she moves on, affirming that "this is a very special painting."

Grandes Modernos (Colección Peggy Guggenheim, Venecia)
Until 26th February, Monday - Sunday 9am - 7.30pm
Admission: $2000 general, $1000 Students, Free entry before midday

Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda
Plaza de La Ciudadania No. 26, Santiago Centro
Metro La Moneda (Line 1)
More information can be found at www.ccplm.cl/sitio/

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