François Pinault Has Spent Decades Working to Cement Paris as a Hub for New Art. His Spectacular Museum Achieves That Goal
After an 11-month delay, the Bourse de Commerce will finally open to the public on May 22.
The Bourse de Commerce–Collection Pinault will at long last open its doors to the public in Paris on May 22 after a protracted 11-month-long delay due to successive lockdowns caused by the public health situation.
For its founder François Pinault, the 84-year-old luxury goods billionaire, the inauguration is the fulfilment of a long-held dream to have his own Parisian museum designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Inside are works by some of the most in-demand contemporary artists inlcuding David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.
The grand opening of the museum is a milestone for the collector, whose has been trying to build a museum in the French capital for decades. Back in 2000, an obstructive town council dashed Pinault’s hopes of constructing a museum on Île Seguin, an island on the Seine river to the west of Paris where Renault formerly manufactured cars. The disappointment led Pinault to abandon his efforts in France and open spaces in Venice, in the opulent Palazzo Grassi in 2006, followed by the Punta della Dogana in 2009.
“Since settling in Venice, François Pinault said that if one day the opportunity presented itself to install in Paris, he still hoped to open a museum here,” Jean-Jacques Aillagon, Collection Pinault’s chief executive officer and former French culture minister, told Artnet News during an early viewing of the museum. “So when the mayor of Paris [Anne Hidalgo], who is committed to upgrading the area of Les Halles, asked him whether he’d be interested in installing a museum in the Bourse de Commerce, he responded positively straight away.”
Hidalgo announced in 2016 that the city would lease the Bourse de Commerce, which is located between the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre, to Collection Pinault. In return for the renewable, 50-year lease, Collection Pinault is to pay €15 million (around $18 million) annually for the first two years, according to Le Monde. More than €150 million ($180 million) has been spent on renovating the 18th-century building, which once housed a corn exchange and later became the site of the French stock exchange, from which it gets its name.
Significantly, Collection Pinault, which includes 10,000 artworks, is a public limited company rather than a foundation that could avail of significant tax breaks. Regarding this decision by Pinault, founder of Kering and investment group Artemis, Aillagon said: “François Pinault didn’t want to associate himself with the type of collectors that bear the name of a brand. He could have called it Fondation Gucci or Fondation Bottega Veneta, but he wanted to distinguish his activity as an entrepreneur from his activity as a collector. Being a company also gives our activities more rigor and flexibility.”
The architect Tadao Ando, who was also behind the redesign of the Punta della Dogana, has majestically renovated the circular building—classified as an historical monument—in collaboration with the French architects NeM and Pierre-Antoine Gatier. In his signature pale grey concrete, he has created a vast central rotunda.
Inside this concrete cylinder is an ensemble of wax candle sculptures by Urs Fischer, the centrepiece being a replica of Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, which was first presented at the 2011 Venice Biennale. It complements Ando’s architecture and soars to create a dialogue with the cupola’s overhead frescoes representing scenes of trade. Over the course of the next few months, the gigantic sculpture will gradually melt away. Perched on top of the rotunda, meanwhile, is an inconspicuous flock of pigeons that have surreptitiously flown into the venue, courtesy of Maurizio Cattelan.
These works are part of the inaugural exhibition “Ouverture” (French for “opening”), featuring 32 artists. Surrounding the rotunda are works in vitrines by Bertrand Lavier, behind which is a large gallery devoted to diverse sculptures by David Hammons, such as a basketball net dripping with crystals in a conflation of the vernacular and the opulent.
The first floor of the building is the photography gallery. While some works by Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince are familiar, Michel Journiac’s black-and-white transvestite series, 24 heures de la vie d’une femme ordinaire (1974) (24 hours in the line of an ordinary woman), is a discovery, in which the late French artist interprets a woman’s multiple daily activities.
The second floor is dedicated to painting by artists such as Rudolf Stingel, Marlene Dumas, Luc Tuymans and Yiadom-Boakye, who have been showcased in Pinault’s Venetian spaces. Among the highlights are figurative works by Kerry James Marshall, Florian Krewer and Antonio Oba, artists that are being unveiled as part of the collection for the first time.
“François Pinault has always been very involved in his exhibition projects and for this exhibition he was particularly present; I don’t think there’s a single work that he didn’t choose himself,” Martin Bethenod, Collection Pinault’s deputy chief executive officer, said.
The idea was to eschew “spectacular installations and hard-hitting works [and] certain artists like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and [Takashi] Murakami,” said Bethenod. Rather, the decision was taken to “address something more intimate about each person’s existential existence” and the “humanist” approach to art through the treatment of social, political, racial, gender, and identity issues.
“Many journalists have remarked upon the important presence of African American artists but it’s not a novelty,” Bethenod added. “Pinault has acquired 30 pieces by David Hammons over nearly 40 years, and works by Kerry James Marshall over 20 years. This dimension [of his collection] was present before but perhaps a bit less visible.”
While all the galleries have been opened in synchronicity for this exhibition, future shows will open in different galleries at different times. “The first space that will be rehung will be the rotunda because of how Urs Fischer’s candles will melt,” Bethenod said.
The inauguration of the Bourse de Commerce—Collection Pinault is emblematic of the growing presence in Paris of collections and foundations, including Fondation Louis Vuitton, Fondation Cartier, Lafayette Anticipations and Fondation Pernod Ricard, which opened a new space designed by NeM last week.
“Twenty years ago, people said that Paris was an artistic capital for classical or modern art but that London or New York had more effervescence for contemporary art,” Bethenod said. “Things have changed a lot since then and this should make the whole Paris ecosystem more dynamic.”
“Ouverture” is on view at The Bourse de Commerce–Collection Pinault in Paris from May 22. See more images of the spectacular museum below.
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