Past trips abroad have brought us some of our favorite experiences, one that often rises to the top in our minds is taking in the François Pinault Collection of contemporary art at the Punta della Dogana in Venice. It was a gorgeous day, as you can see in the brilliant blue of the sky in the photo of “Boy with Frog” we snapped that day. Sadly, the eight-foot-tall sculpture was removed in 2013, which makes us extremely happy we had such a great photograph of it with the famed landmark the Campanile di San Marco in the background.
The François Pinault Collection in Paris
Along with the astonishing collection of art, the interior of the building, which was transformed by a team led by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, was powerful with its raw brick walls and floating glassed staircase. The juxtaposition of age and sleek newness was as noteworthy as the names of contemporary artists whose works were on view. Pinault and Ando have just finished a new project, this time in Paris. The Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection is the latest museum in the network of sites and initiatives developed by the French magnate. It offers a perspective on the contemporary art collection that he has amassed during the past forty years through a unique program of exhibitions and events.
The collection in this building is being billed as a museum that offers a glance at contemporary art during “our time.” It includes over 10,000 works by almost 400 artists, and features paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, audio works, installations, and performances. The artists collected by Pinault come from all over the world and represent every age group. The collection also encompasses all fields of creation and reveals Pinault’s particular penchant for emerging trends. The reason “our time” is appropriate as a theme is that it includes art from the 1960s to the present day.
The Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection has ten exhibition galleries, including a Studio dedicated to video and audio works, as well as outreach spaces and an auditorium for conferences, meetings, screenings, concerts, and events. Just as Pinault did when he revamped the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana in Venice, he has preserved and transformed a symbolic building, this time in one of Paris’s famed neighborhoods, Les Halles, taking a structure that is part of a city’s historical heritage and opened it to the public. He chose Ando’s team at TAAA once again, adding Niney et Marca Architects and the Pierre-Antoine Gatier Agency to the roster of professionals. Construction began on the building in 2017 and was completed in February 2020.
The Bourse de Commerce building has transitioned through four centuries of architectural adjustments. It contains the first free-standing column in Paris, erected in the 15th century for Catherine de’ Medicis’ palace, and encompasses the vestiges of a granary that was impressive for its circular 18th-century design. This was capped in 1812 with a spectacular metal and glass dome. The building was then modified in 1889 to become the “Paris Stock Exchange.” Today, the monument has been given new life thanks to Ando’s contemporary architectural contribution. The building is the largest project designed by the Japanese architect in France.
In this excerpt from La Bourse de Commerce. Le musée de la Collection Pinault à Paris co-published by Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection and éditions Dilecta earlier this year, Ando says of his design of the building, “My job was to transform this building into a contemporary art museum without touching the structure that is classified as a historical monument. I was to revive the building, honoring the memory of the city inscribed in its walls, and slot another structure into its interior inspired by the concept of Russian dolls. The idea was to design a lively space that would foster a dynamic dialogue between the new and the old, which is what a site dedicated to contemporary art should be. The architecture was to serve as the link between the threads of time, the past, present and future, as was the case in [François Pinault’s] Venice projects.”
He describes how he accomplished the feat: “The circular design respecting the urban symmetry comprises a central rotunda, and within it, I inserted a nine-meter high concrete cylinder with a diameter of thirty meters. The Punta della Dogana project in Venice was born from a simple design—a geometrical shape surrounded by brick trees—while the spatial layout of the Bourse de Commerce consists of concentric circles and is designed to create an intense and more subtle dialogue between new and old.”
He adds, “The inside of the cylinder houses a main exhibition space and an auditorium in the basement. The outer facade of the cylinder encloses a corridor, an internal passageway between the concrete wall and the facade of the original building designed by Henri Blondel. This internal passageway rises to the upper floor of the cylinder, providing access to a circular walkway. The frescos around the dome that illuminate the entire space seem to be the culmination of this series of spaces […] The structure of the old building is not only preserved, but it is alive, thanks to the creation within it of a new architecture that descends all the way down to the basement. It was a challenging construction project, but the team has created a remarkable structure.”
The First Exhibition
To celebrate the recent opening of the museum, an inaugural exhibition called “Ouverture” (Opening) has been staged. It features some 200 works by 32 contemporary artists that include paintings, sculptures, video, installations, photography, and performance art—all of which will be on view through December 31, 2021. The remarkable exhibit features an ensemble of wax sculptures by Urs Fischer in the vast central rotunda, the main sculpture being a reproduction of The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna.
The exhibit makes use of all ten exhibition spaces and showcases in-situ works throughout—inside and outside. The first floor of the building is the photography gallery featuring works by Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince. Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection organizers report that Pinault has acquired 30 pieces by David Hammons over nearly 40 years and this will be the first time the rare ensemble of works will be on view in their entirety. Works by Kerry James Marshall will be displayed on the second floor, which is dedicated to paintings.
The paintings gallery will also feature the works of Rudolf Stingel, Marlene Dumas, Luc Tuymans, and Yiadom-Boakye, who have been showcased in Pinault’s Venetian spaces. The figurative works by Kerry James Marshall, Florian Krewer, and Antonio Oba are being presented as part of the collection for the first time. You can bet we’ll be visiting this museum the next time we are able to travel to Paris. The museum maintains a lively Instagram feed that has amazing photography of the collection.