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Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Foundation’s formative collection was shaped through major gifts and purchases from contemporaries who similarly championed radical experimentation in art. These acquisitions include a prized group of Impressionist, Post‑Impressionist, and School of Paris masterworks from Justin K. Thannhauser; the Expressionist inventory of émigré art dealer Karl Nierendorf; inimitable holdings of abstract and Surrealist painting and sculpture from self‑proclaimed “art addict” Peggy Guggenheim, Solomon’s niece; and key modernist examples from the estate of artist and curator Katherine S. Dreier, as well as from Rebay’s estate.

While each collector possessed distinctive motivations, tastes, and art-world relationships, parallels persist. They advocated for arts education and harbored ambitions for establishing cultural institutions, even those who were involved in the commercial side of the art trade. Mutual associations existed with such groundbreaking artists as Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, and Pablo Picasso. Vasily Kandinsky represents a particularly critical link, and his work forms the nucleus of the Guggenheim Foundation collection today with over 150 examples assembled.