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NONFICTION | IN BRIEF

August 18, 1996|Susan Salter Reynolds

PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: A Collector's Album by Laurence Tacou-Rumney (Flammarion: $29.95, 176 pp.). How to resist her? Or, as Trollope would say, "Can you forgive her?" You know she's bad for you, so influential even when dead, even on the page, that you run the risk of wanting to be like her--extravagant, flamboyant, seductive, destructive, weird. Forget about it. You might have the taste but you certainly can't afford it. Content yourself with a little weekly salon, buy a poster, take a trip alone and get into a little teeny bit of trouble. This would be the scale model of Guggenheim's life.

The pictures in this photo album of the heiress' life will help, even if the text will not. Laurence Tacou-Rumney, a Parisian journalist who is married to Sandro Rumney, Guggenheim's grandson, has written a serviceable if unimaginative accompaniment to the photographs, which do, in fact, speak eloquently for themselves, many of them taken by the likes of Berenice Abbott and Man Ray. (Guggenheim's memoirs, "Out of This Century" written in 1946, make juicier reading.)

Guggenheim's father died on the Titanic. Her list of lovers, husbands and mentors included Max Ernst, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Duchamp and the painter Laurence Vail. She collected and exhibited and made famous the works of Arp, Brancusi, Calder, Duchamp, Ernst, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Leger, Motherwell, Pollack, Rothko. During World War II she helped several artists and writers, including Ernst and Andre Breton, escape France. She was born in New York, married in Paris and "consecrated in Venice" as "the last dogaressa." She died in 1979. But not really.

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