Culture / Art

Luxury watch brands: Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award 2016 recognised Peggy Guggenheim

The German watchmaker celebrates the life and legacy of the modernist art exhibitor and recipient of the 2016 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Feb 24, 2017 | By Angela Teo

Over the past 25 years, Montblanc has recognised the invaluable contribution of modern-day patrons of the arts from 17 various countries through its prestigious Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award. The award is part of the brand’s commitment to actively engage in the promotion of arts and culture across the globe. To accompany the award, each year, Montblanc commissions a unique limited edition pen inspired by a historical patron of the arts.

The Montblanc Patron of Art Edition 2016 paid tribute to Peggy Guggenheim, one of the most influential art collectors and exhibitors of 20th-century art. If her name sounds familiar, it is because she is the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, the eponymous founder of the Guggenheim Museum. As a significant figure in the Western art world, Peggy Guggenheim dedicated most of her life to protecting the art of her time by discovering and nurturing new talent, while building an important collection of works, which are currently housed in a Venice museum that carries her name.

Born in 1898 to a family whose fortune was made from the mining and smelting of metals, Peggy grew up in New York and travelled to Europe at the age of 23. Marrying first husband Laurence Vail, Peggy soon found herself at the heart of Parisian bohemia and American expatriate society. In 1938, she opened her first art gallery in London, and a year later conceived the idea of opening a ‘modern art museum’ formed upon historical principles. Throughout and in spite of the war, Peggy busily acquired works for the future museum, with a resolve to “buy a picture a day”. Some of the masterpieces of her collection, such as works by Francis Picabia, Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí and Piet Mondrian, were bought at that time.

Peggy Guggenheim, recipient of the 2016 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Peggy Guggenheim, recipient of the 2016 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Eventually, Peggy left France in 1941 and returned to New York where she finally opened her museum-gallery, Art of This Century. The gallery hosted innovative exhibition rooms and soon became the most stimulating venue for contemporary art in New York. She exhibited her collection of Cubist, abstract and Surrealist art in the gallery. Peggy also held temporary exhibitions of leading European artists to unknown American ones. This led to a cross-pollination of styles and ideas. Peggy and her collection thus played a vital role in the development of America’s first art movement of international importance. She spent the last 30 years of her life in Venice, bringing American avant-garde art to Europe and continued to collect works of art and support artists.

The pen commissioned for the 2016 Montblanc Patron of Art award pays homage to Peggy’s life from her arrival in Europe to her later life in Venice. Created in the Montblanc Artisan Atelier from the finest materials and shaped by highly skilled master craftsmen, the design of the writing instrument is inspired by the art deco style that surrounded Peggy when she arrived in Paris in the 1920s, with clean lines forming the straight shape of the cap, clip and barrel. The skeletonised gold structure of the barrel mirrors the dramatic gates to the Guggenheim Collection in Venice. The lion head clip design refers to the Lion of Saint Mark, symbolic of the city where Peggy chose to house her collection. A red lacquer inlay spiral is inspired by the iconic striped mooring poles lining the canals of Venice. Crowning the cap, the Montblanc emblem is crafted in white marble, mirroring the distinctive marble façade of Peggy’s palazzo.

Through the artistry of great craftsmanship, Montblanc shares the story of the woman who championed so many modern artists with passion and determination. Peggy’s contribution to cultural life is undeniable, and she joins a small group of historic patrons to be honoured by Montblanc. The limited edition writing instruments serve to inspire contemporary patrons by commemorating historic patrons of art. The Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award has been awarded since 1992 and is still awarded annually to recognise today’s patrons for their contribution and commitment to arts and cultural projects.

This article was first published in Art Republik.