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No Joke

In response to:

The Guggenheim Story from the November 19, 1992 issue

To the Editors:

Tom Messer’s description [Letters, NYR, November 19] of my curatorial status at Peggy Guggenheim’s Venice museum as “something of a joke” smacks of self-criticism. It also requires rectification as does his allegation that I “did little or no work for no pay.” True, I was a long-time friend of Peggy’s and received no pay and had no help, but every pre-Easter week I installed the collection and every November I dismantled it. I handled the considerable correspondence that the administration of the place entailed. And since I had trained under Curt Valentin and been a partner in the Peridot gallery in New York for six years, I was able to see to it that the printing and sale of catalogs were done professionally and generated enough money to cover all the operating expenses of Peggy’s gallery.

Messer has likewise no right to question John Richardson’s contention that the day after Peggy died I was told to pack my things. At the time of her death I was in Puerto Rico. With the museum closed down for the winter and Peggy hospitalized in Padua, I felt free to take a vacation. The day she died, two friends called me from Venice with the news. I thereupon telephoned Messer to propose that I return immediately to Venice, as Peggy would have wanted. Don’t bother, I was firmly told. That to me is the “joke”; and Messer’s distortions ensure that it remains a bitter one.

John Hohnsbeen
Venice, Italy

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