“I was a liberated woman long before there was a name for it,” art dean Peggy Guggenheim once remarked. Indeed, the pioneering collector and socialite defied the conventions of her time, living a bohemian lifestyle (including a brief and fiery marriage to Max Ernst), while championing female artists at a time when most female designers were excluded from the roles of wife and muse.

This week, art lovers in New York will have the rare and fleeting chance to see the work of female Guggenheim artists advertised in the very 57th Street space that was once his Art of This Century gallery. This time travel experience is the work of Tony Award-winning producer Jenna Segal, who relaunched the essential “Exhibition of 31 women”—the first of its kind in 1943 to present only female artists—to mark his 80th birthday. Segal’s show will run for a total of 31 hours, spread over a week.

Meret Oppenheim, <i>Untitled, (Helene Mayer)</i>(1936).  Photograph courtesy of 31 Women Collection.” width=”818″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/COVER-MO -Surrealism-818×1024.jpg 818w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/COVER-MO-Surrealism-240×300.jpg 240w, https://news.artnet.com/app /news-upload/2023/05/COVER-MO-Surrealism-1227×1536.jpg 1227w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/COVER-MO-Surrealism-1636×2048.jpg 1636w , https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/COVER-MO-Surrealism-40×50.jpg 40w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/ 05/COVER-MO-Surrealism-1534×1920.jpg 1534w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/COVER-MO-Surrealism.jpg 2044w” sizes=”(max-width: 818px) 100vw, 818px”/></p>
<p id=Meret Oppenheim, Untitled, (Hélène Mayer) (1936). Photograph courtesy of 31 Women Collection.

Guggenheim originally organized the exhibition at the suggestion of his dear friend Marcel Duchamp. The extensive exhibition brought together works by heroines of today’s art history, including Frida Kahlo, Louise Nevelson and Méret Oppenheim, along with myriad others who have since fallen into obscurity. , such as the hauntingly poetic French artist Valentine Hugo and the Swiss-born American abstract artist. Sonja Sekula.

The works on display are all from Segal’s personal collection and represent a larger passion project for the producer, who has long admired Guggenheim’s ethos.

  Bérénice Abbott, <i>Peggy Guggenheim</i> (1926).  Collection of Jenna Segal.” width=”803″ height=”1024″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/JPS-BABB001-image-803×1024.jpg 803w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/JPS-BABB001-image-235×300.jpg 235w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05 /JPS-BABB001-image-39×50.jpg 39w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/JPS-BABB001-image.jpg 1143w” sizes=”(max-width: 803px ) 100vw, 803px”/></p>
<p id=Berenice Abbott, Peggy Guggenheim (1926). Collection of Jenna Segal.

Segal, who is the founder of Segal NYC, a production company focused on showcasing creative women, first became interested in the celebrated patron of the art world when she visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice on a hike in across Europe at university. Captivated by the collector’s vision, Segal then devoured Guggenheim’s riveting autobiography and learned of his heroic efforts to protect artists in Europe at the dawn of World War II.

“I bought her autobiography and read it on the train as we continued to travel and it really struck me that there was this American girl I had never been told about. [and who] had done so much,” she said. A seed of inspiration had been planted. “I hid it in my heart,” Segal said of her fondness for Guggenheim, knowing that on some level she would revisit her story later.

Leonor Fini Femme En Armor I (Woman in Armor I), 1938 Oil on canvas Photo credit: The 31 Women Collection

Leonor Fini, Woman In Armor I (Woman In Armor I) (1938) Photograph courtesy of 31 Women Collection.

Then, in 2020, in the midst of quarantine, Segal returned to the Guggenheim autobiography. She had long considered “31 Women” to be a pivotal and tragically unknown moment in women’s history. With the itch to produce, Segal’s reflections unite around the possibility of bringing together the works of all the artists included in the exhibition in one place.

“At first I just wanted to see if I could find all these women,” Segal noted. Since no known photographs of “31 women” exist, and many of the works included were simply listed as “untitled”, Segal decided that she would try to feature at least one work by each of the 31 artists, rather than all 31 artists. trying to recreate the exact show itself.

She quickly plunged into a crash course in art history and collecting, reaching out to online auction houses, eBay and dozens of other sources to assemble her collection. She decided to focus on works made as close as possible to the date of the exhibition. “Through self-education, I began to see the differences between what these artists were doing in the 30s and 40s and what they were doing in the 50s and 60s.” Amid a moment of global uncertainty, she found these earlier works resonated with her.

Valentine Hugo, <i>Portrait of Arthur Rimbaud</i>(1936).  Collection of Jenna Segal.” width=”608″ height=”727″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/JPS-VHUG016-image.png 798w, https: //news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/JPS-VHUG016-image-250×300.png 250w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/05/JPS -VHUG016-image-42×50.png 42w” sizes=”(max-width: 608px) 100vw, 608px”/></p>
<p id=Valentine Hugo, Portrait of Arthur Rimbaud (1936). Collection of Jenna Segal.

This immersion was an eye-opening experience filled with rich stories that touched Segal personally: “I could go on and on about any of these artists.”

In the friendship between Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini, two artists included in the collection, for example, she found a corollary. After meeting in Paris in 1938, they began a long and intimate correspondence in exile from their country of origin. Their exchanges ranged from deeply felt memories to artistic considerations. “It reminds me of an email correspondence I had with a friend of mine, a female writer in London,” Segal noted.

An artist, the French painter Valentine Hugo, Segal finds himself acquiring again and again. “Valentin Hugo haunts me, I say,” laughed Segal.

“While I was building this collection, I painted a wall in my office with magnetic paint so that I could move images of these artists’ works around to see everything in one space,” she explained. “I left one day and walked in and somehow in the night the image of Hugo had moved up to the ceiling. It made me think of her. For Segal, the eerie experience speaks to the mysteries that artists are able to both capture and conjure up.

If Hugo haunted Segal, another artist escaped him: Gypsy Rose Lee. Gypsy Rose Lee was an iconic 20th century American burlesque performer, artist and playwright. While Segal has managed to acquire works by all of the other 30 women, she remains on the hunt for a work by Lee.

Unknown photographer, Gypsy Rose Lee with artwork likely to be that included in the original 31 Women exhibition in 1943. Photograph printed from original 35mm negative.  Photo credit: The 31 women collection.

Unknown photographer, Gypsy Rose Lee with artwork likely to be that included in the original 31 Women exhibition in 1943. Photograph printed from original 35mm negative. Photo: Collection 31 women.

“She was the Kim Kardashian of her time,” Segal enthused. “It’s shocking that people don’t know about her today and that I can’t find a single work around here. It’s as if in 80 years, there won’t be a pair of Skims to be found!

Today, Segal’s office is in what was once the Guggenheim’s famous 57th Street gallery. When asked how it happened, Segal laughed. “I went to the door and knocked,” she said, noting a producer’s instinct. “I thought I’d go see for myself.” After some cajoling, Segal secured the space, which had fallen into disrepair. Segal enlisted whoops creative studio and agency, led by architects Eric Moed and Penelope Phylactopoulos, to energize the space with aspects of the gallery’s original design by Austrian American architect Frederick Kiesler.

While Segal is glad the exhibit is gaining attention, she hopes it will be a call to historians and a springboard for the future.

“I am not a historian. I am not a museum. I don’t claim to be an expert,” she said. “Peggy said, ‘I listened and became my own expert,’ and that’s what I would say I am. But in the annals of art history, there are people who know way more than I. I hope they come and feel as inspired as I do and that we get a great scholarship.

“The 31 Women Collection” can be viewed at 30 W 57th St, New York through May 21. Reservations for free, timed entry can be made here.

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