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The Guggenheim Family Feud May Finally Be Over

Peggy Guggenheim’s descendants have failed to stop the Guggenheim Foundation from displaying whatever art it wishes to at their ancestor’s Italian estate.

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Peggy Guggenheim


A Paris court yesterday ruled that the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation may continue to display art as it wishes in the Venetian palazzo bequeathed to it by the socialite art collector Peggy Guggenheim. In doing so it rejected the claims made by a group of her descendants that the foundation was required by their ancestor’s will to limit art displayed at her former home only to what was included in her private collection.

The suit was brought by Peggy Guggenheim’s seven grandsons and great-grandsons, and her daughter, Pegeen Vail, who have asserted their intention to appeal the decision.

The plaintiffs in the suit were angered that between 1999 and 2013, the Foundation held exhibits of outside art work on the grounds of the museum no fewer than fourteen times. They also protested the addition of the names of the Rudolp B. and Hannelore B. Schulhoff, who donated many works of art which have been added to the collection, to the museum’s facade.

Another complaint made by the family centered on the holding of events in the palazzo’s garden where Peggy is buried. But the Foundation countered that plaintiffs have themselves attended many functions in the garden.

The family members brought the suit earlier this year. Another similar lawsuit was brought against the foundation twenty years ago and was dismissed by the courts. The new suit, the plaintiffs maintained, was on different grounds than the previous one.

But the Guggenheim Foundation asserted that Peggy Guggenheim’s sole heir was her son, Sindbad Vail, and that only he would have had grounds to bring the law suit. Her children, they maintained, have expressed their disappointment that the law suit was filed.

A statement on the court’s decision was released by the Guggenheim Foundation’s Chairman William Mack, and its director Richard Armstrong:

“The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation acknowledges the decision handed down today by the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (Paris District Court) in the lawsuit brought by some of the descendants of Peggy Guggenheim. As it did in 1994, the court again rejected as baseless their allegations against the Foundation and required the claimants to contribute toward the expenses the Foundation has incurred in defending itself against this lawsuit.



The Foundation is proud to have faithfully carried out the wishes of Peggy Guggenheim for more than thirty years by preserving her collection intact in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, restoring and maintaining the Palazzo as a public museum and contributing to the knowledge of modern and contemporary art in Italy. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection today is the most visited museum of modern art in Italy and in 2013 was the second most visited museum in Venice, exceeded only by the Doge’s Palace.”

The plaintiffs were ordered by the court to 30, 000 euros ($41, 000) in legal fees to the Guggenheim foundation.


Margueritte “Peggy” Guggenheim (1898-1979) was an American art collector and the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim who died on the Titanic. Her uncle Solomon established the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Having organized many art exhibits around the world and establishing her own impressive collection, Guggenheim wanted her personal collection to be displayed after she died and so she bequeathed it to the Guggenheim Foundation.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is a nonprofit founded in 1937 by the philanthropist for whom it is named. The Foundation is dedicated to the collection and preservation of modern art. It funds and operates many museums around the world, the most famous of which is probably the Guggenheim art museum in New York.



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