Bourse de Commerce: Billionaire Francois Pinault's art collection goes on display in new Paris museum

The man behind luxury group Kering is digging plenty of pieces from his vast collection out of storage

The reopening of Paris museums this week finally gives billionaire tycoon Francois Pinault the chance to showcase his vast contemporary art collection in the French capital, with works from stuffed pigeons to slowly melting chairs.

The museum's launch in a converted 19th-century commodities exchange, blocks away from the Louvre Museum, was put on hold twice owing to the coronavirus pandemic after having suffered earlier planning mishaps, with an initial project abandoned in 2005.

Pinault, 84 – who made his fortune in timber trading before shifting into retail under the group now known as Kering, run by his son – joins rival French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault in trying to stamp his legacy on Paris' art scene and landscape, with museums and renovation projects.

But the Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection, opening on Saturday, will also give visitors a glimpse of the businessman's vast trove of art purchases since the 1980s, including pieces by photographer Cindy Sherman and painter Peter Doig.

VENICE, ITALY - APRIL 08: Francois Pinault poses for a portrat session during the press preview of "Elogio del Dubbio" at Punta della Dogana on April 8, 2011 in Venice, Italy. The exhibition will open from April 10, 2011 to December 31, 2012. (Photo by Barbara Zanon/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** al14au-art-pinault.jpg
Francois Pinault, pictured in 2011, has an extensive collection of modern art

The 200 works on display for the opening, many straight out of storage, feature artists who have never had retrospectives in France, such Kerry James Marshall, known for his explorations of African-American history.

An ephemeral work by Swiss-born artist Urs Fischer will take centre stage at the launch, with wax sculptures installed in the central space, including chairs and a marble-like statue, set to slowly melt over six months as they are set alight.

Overhead, stuffed pigeons peer down into the gallery, in an art installation called Others by Maurizio Cattelan designed to give visitors a startling sense of being observed.

The project follows Pinault's attempt to build a new museum in western Paris on the site of a former Renault car factory, which became bogged down in wrangling with local authorities. The billionaire has since opened two museums in Venice, Italy.

Arnault, who is behind the LVMH luxury goods conglomerate, built his Louis Vuitton foundation in the west of the French capital, opening the futuristic ship-like Frank Gehry design to public exhibits in 2014.

The Cartier Foundation, linked to the jewellery brand owned by Switzerland's Richemont, has been a cultural hot spot for contemporary art exhibits in Paris since the 1980s.

'A more balanced art scene'

Many museums in France are reopening for the first time since October on Wednesday as Covid-19 restrictions ease. The Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection will welcome 600 to 700 visitors a day, a reduced intake compared to its 1,700 capacity.

In Paris' crowded art world, once dominated by public institutions, private museums now offer a fresh perspective, the Bourse de Commerce's managing director Martin Bethenod said.

epa09206007 A man watches the room with paintings by British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye during the press visit of the 'Bourse de Commerce', a new venue dedicated to contemporary art created by French Businessman Francois Pinault in Paris, France, 14 May 2021 (issued 17 May 2021). The collection, an ensemble of over 10,000 works by almost 400 artists, features paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, and installations and will be opened to public on 22 May 2021. EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON
Paintings by British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye in the Bourse de Commerce. EPA

"Now it's a much more balanced art scene, it's a kind of ecosystem in which private and public can work together," he said.

Housed in a circular former grain trading hall, the Bourse de Commerce's exterior has been restored, while inside old and new mingle. A cement walkway imagined by Japanese architect Tadao Ando gives visitors a closer view of the imposing glass dome, as well as a late 19th-century painting depicting an antiquated Europe-centric world view, with colonial stereotypes.

Part of the concept was to keep the work, in a form of dialogue with contemporary artists, Bethenod said.

"Pinault's point of view is very much linked to issues in society, social issues, political issues, gender issues, cultural issues," he said.

Updated: May 19, 2021 05:20 PM

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