Director, Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Karole P. B. Vail was named Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and Foundation Director for Italy in June 2017. Prior to this appointment, she served on the curatorial staff at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, where worked since 1997. Vail’s most recent exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was the retrospective Moholy-Nagy: Future Present (2016), which she organized in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She is currently co-organizing, with the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, the retrospective Alberto Giacometti, to be presented at the Guggenheim in New York in 2018.
I’ve been the director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection since mid-June of 2017, so it’s a very new job indeed. I came from the Guggenheim Museum in New York where I was a curator for twenty years. So now I am back in Europe, and here in Venice.
Presenting Peggy’s legacy is incredibly important. The historical palazzo and the collection are the primary reasons that people come to the museum. She created this collection in her house, which then became the museum. I think people want to come here not just because it’s a museum of superlative art, but because it has a personal story behind it of a woman who wanted to do something very particular, something that she dedicated half her life to.
Working with that kind of legacy, the legacy of someone who happens to be my grandmother — something that I am fully aware of — is of course very special. It’s also of course a huge responsibility, and very, very exciting. My wish is to respect that legacy, for many reasons — personal reasons and professional reasons and for those who come here every day or year.
On drawing connections, new ways of seeing
We are here to guide, certainly not impose, ways of seeing art. It’s about guiding — people have to come to their own conclusions. We can’t assert fixed ideas or preconceptions. It’s all about sharing experiences, wanting people to see things in a new way.
On shared experience and collaboration
The more people that can collaborate or work together the better. I am all for an open dialogue and exchange of ideas. That’s beneficial for everyone. I certainly believe in the team and collegial spirit, and always have. The more you can talk about matters, especially in a creative environment, that’s really beneficial for everyone, including myself of course.
Besides being a new director, I am also a curator, primarily with a focus on early 20th century art, and my task at the museum is to preserve, enhance and perpetuate the legacy, while at the same time trying to understand what a museum is meant to be in the 21st century. While the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a historic site, it is vital to keep it alive and dynamic with a look always towards the future, and never to lose sight of this.