First Images: François Pinault’s Bourse de Commerce Museum Opens in Paris

As the boundaries of wealth ballooned at the outset of the 21st Century (and continue to do so, worryingly), it was apparently no longer enough for those holding said wealth to boast a considerable art collection. After all, lots of rich people own Rothkos, Picassos and Basquiats – and ten digit bank balances suggested grander possibilities.

So, naturally, the next logical move would be to own an entire museum…right? And wouldn’t you know, in 2006 PPR (now Kerig) CEO – and husband of Salma Hayak – François Pinault opened his namesake collection at Palazzo Grassi in Venice (betting, of course, that the entire city wouldn’t sink into the Adriatic any time soon – it hasn’t). And certainly not to be outdone, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault debuted the Frank Gehry designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in 2014. The trend carried on, as it would, and currently there are a number of others around the globe, most notably the high-profile Broad Museum in Los Angeles, which was inaugurated in 2015, and holds the personal collection of philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.

Now the news has looped back around to Monsieur Pinault, who has just spent $195 million converting Paris’ former stock exchange building, at 2 Rue de Viarmes in the 1st arrondissement, into the breathtakingly impressive Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection. Part of that budget went to securing the services of the exalted Tadao Ando, whose redesign will surely net its share of cognoscenti column inches – even as the brief age of the “starchitect” begins to wane (when Zaha Hadid passed away in 2016, it arguably lost much of its glitter and frisson).

The museum is actually located near to Les Halles, a mostly unremarkable Paris neighborhood that has generated some buzz in the last several years for its trending food scene. But the area also butts up against the Louvre to the south, and the Centre Pompidou to the east – so the addition of the Bourse de Commerce means the French capital now boasts an exceedingly newsworthy new “museum triangle,” certainly a reason for visiting culture vultures to be tickled silly.

The collection itself? Well, such private institutions would tend to reflect the tastes of their founders – and so we get a deeper dive into the aesthetic and philosophical inclinations of Pinault, the art collector. And he wastes no time making a statement, as visitors enter into the awesome neoclassical spectacle that is the Rotonde – its interior starkness punctuated by Urs Fischer’s Untitled, 2011, which completes an artistic circle, as the Swiss provocateur was the first artist granted a solo exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi back in 2012.

The Passage surrounds the Rotonde, the 19th Century bridging to the 21st via Ando’s shuttered concrete wall and staircase. Here, 24 display cases dating back to the 1889 Exposition Universelle are given over to French sculptor Bernard Lavier, famous for his “pop” sculpts of everyday objects like refrigerators and crashed cars. Gallery 3 exalts fine art photography (also a serious concern at the Grassi), and holds the works of such marquee snappers as Cindy Sherman, Berenice Abbott, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Irving Penn; themes of identity, gender and sexuality are woven into the gallery’s overall narrative.

Altogether there are nine indoor galleries, and an outdoor space displaying Philippe Parreno’s luminous Mont Analogue. No surprise, major art world luminaries fill its halls, Peter Doig, Luc Tuymans, Maurizio Cattelan… It will unquestionably change the face of the Paris art scene, and hastily take its place amongst Europe’s most influential cultural institutions – especially considering the dedication of its benefactor to the cause of art.

“One of the greatest virtues of the artistic experience is its ability to open up new horizons,” Pinault observes. “This is why I am passionate about the great adventure of creation. Since my very early acquisitions, each discovery has revealed new worlds and aesthetics, allowed me to understand what had been unfamiliar to me, and pushed back the limits I thought I should impose upon myself. It is my keen desire to share this experience with as many people as possible.”

Considering the lamentable cultural deprivation of the last fifteen months of COVID-imposed lockdowns, it’s exceedingly likely that a very many people will be just as eager to share it with him.

The Bourse de Commerce is currently open at 2 Rue de Viarmes, Paris.

Image by Vladimir Partalo

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