Billionaire Francois Pinault’s Unwanted Art Museum in Paris
By Marina Renzi
Francois Pinault, an extremely well-known billionaire in France, has a love for contemporary art and was interested in showcasing his fine collection in Paris with the public.
The general public was at first uninterested in the idea of seeing Pinault’s valuable collection on display, and many Paris citizens frowned upon the notion of a museum.
However, given the COVID-19 pandemic and its strict restrictions, a museum may be just what the city needs to initiate a “normal” new start to life.
Francois Pinault spoke affectionately about his collection being in Paris. “It began as a dream, a dream that seemed out of reach.
Then this dream became an ambition. Today, that ambition has become reality. For years, I have longed to be able to show my collection in Paris, the city I love.
This is why, the inauguration of the Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection is of such special and symbolic importance for me. Paris is not only the city of passion.
First and foremost, it is the natural home of artists, of their creative genius and their beliefs.” (Pinault on his collection residing in Paris).
What is the Museum?
Located at the Belle Epoque-era dome, this massive collection of art is open to anyone who would like to experience it.
At the Bourse de Commerce, the Pinault Collection is an astounding collection of over 10,000 works created by hundreds of different artists.
“The Bourse de Commerce de Paris is in itself a history of architecture. It bears witness to the transformation of an area of Paris, the old district of Les Halles.
Its design reflects successive historical strata: the column of the former Hôtel de la Reine; the circular plan and interior facades of the first Halle au blé; the iron dome; and finally, the exterior facades, roofing, interior fittings, and decorative work. […]
This building is not the result of a simple superposition of periods and styles, but rather of their fusion.” (Excerpt taken from the Bourse de Commerce. The Museum of the Pinault Collection in Paris).
For 50 years, the museum will be open to the public and contain incredible pieces of artwork from around the 1960s to the present day.
A lease on an incredible building right next to the Louvre, however, does come with a hefty price tag.
The planning and building, from beginning to end, cost around $194 million USD.
Because of this, the artworks, collections, and planned exhibits were kept secret to the public.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 lockdowns throughout France in 2020, the grand opening of the museum was pushed from June to January of 2021.
The opening of the museum was delayed once more during a massive winter lockdown, so the museum opened its doors on May 22, 2021.
Incredible Works of Art on Display
The majority of the pieces are recent and from the present day, however, a lot of them also have historical significance – including controversial themes and taboo subjects.
One of the most fascinating pieces of artwork that are housed at the museum is a near-perfect replica of the famous 16th-century statue “The Rape of the Sabine Women” by artist Giambologna.
While this may not seem too impressive at first, the fascinating aspect is that the statue is meant to “self-destruct”.
By creating the sculpture out of pigmented wax instead of stone, it created a type of candle, which will then melt away with time.
The museum’s deputy chief executive officer, Martin Bethenod, noted that this type of melting statue is not meant to invoke sadness or disappearance, but rather a type of transformation instead.
Another intriguing art piece, which is very poignant to today’s day and age, is a mural panorama by artist David Hammons called “Triumphal France”, depicting the present discourse about race, politics, and gender.
This is an incredible work of art done by black artists – showing the beauty, history, and struggle that people of color have had to endure.
“Helms Amendment”, a piece created by Louis Lawler, depicts a series of photographs of a plastic cup meant to show every senator who voted to deny funding and education for the AIDS crisis of 1987.
This thought-provoking artwork was created to show what the world was like for people grappling with AIDS, while simultaneously condemning the inaction of politicians.
And lastly, one of the more interesting pieces features a flock of taxidermied pigeons that are perched on different balconies, looking down over the crowd of visitors. This is definitely a statement piece of artwork.
Pinault has been collecting thousands of art pieces over the last 50 years, and this collection is just a showcase of his expansive and interesting taste in contemporary art.
In the early 1970s, Pinault became entranced with the artists of the Pont-Aven School, and a painting by Paul Serusier kick-started his massive collection.
Since Pinault is very well-known in the region, a collection of this size is important, as it led him to establish relationships among the different artists he showcased.
Many other art collectors cannot say the same. This makes Pinault’s collection special and a little more personal for the viewers of the gallery.
Pinault has a fine eye for all things luxury.
His company became focused on luxury goods and brands, and his art is nothing short of this standard as well.
Pinault focuses his collection on different pieces of art that reflect the struggles between race and gender, in addition to political, and social issues, which just adds to the intrigue.
“Sharing with the public the questions that art raises and asks us this is the very sense of the cultural project I have initiated” (Francois Pinault).
Though this art collection is not the first of its kind to be displayed, it is one of the largest collections and will continue to grow over the coming years.
Pinault loves Paris and always had a dream of sharing his passion with his favorite city. Thus he was able to accomplish with the installation at the Bourse de Commerce.
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