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Guggenheim Foundation sued by descendants of Peggy Guggenheim

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York is being taken to court a second time by descendants of the late American art collector Peggy Guggenheim. The descendants are accusing the foundation of failing to adhere to the terms of her legacy to the organization. 

In court papers filed in Paris last month, seven of her heirs claim that the foundation has disregarded many of the terms of Peggy Guggenheim's bequest to the foundation. They say the bequest included strict provisions for the display of her art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy.

The family previously sued the foundation in the 1990s, making many of the same accusations. That lawsuit was settled in 1996 with the foundation agreeing to keep the family informed about exhibitions and other developments. 

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Since then, the family claims, the foundation has failed to live up to its side of the agreement.

"What we want is to restore Peggy [Guggenheim]'s memory and for them to respect and honor the contract they made together," Sindbad Rumney, a great-grandson of Guggenheim, said by phone from New York.

A Paris court is expected to hear the new case starting May 21.

The Guggenheim Foundation didn't respond to a request for comment. Last week, the organization told the Art Newspaper, a British publication, that the claims have "no merit" and that the family members are "simply wrong to state that there were any conditions associated with the gift of the collection to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation." 

The family members contend Peggy Guggenheim stipulated that her art be displayed at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, and that exhibitions featuring art from other collections be temporary and displayed in a different building.

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They argue that the palazzo only exhibits part of her collection and that much of the art on display is from other private collections -- like Hannelore and Rudolph Schulhof's and Raymond and Patsy Nasher's -- and is being displayed on a permanent basis.

They contend that the other collectors' names have been given prominent visual placement near the site where Peggy Guggenheim's ashes are kept, which is on the grounds of the museum, and that it constitutes a "desecration" of her grave.

As part of their suit, the family members are demanding the revocation of Peggy Guggenheim's donation to the foundation.

In 1965, Peggy Guggenheim gave the bulk of her highly valued contemporary art collection to the foundation, and she later left her Venice home to the New York-based group. Since then, the organization has accepted art donated by other collectors.

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david.ng@latimes.com

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