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Delays Prompt France’s Pinault To Ponder a Museum in Italy

Five years ago French businessman and art collector François Pinault, who owns Christie’s International, announced plans for a contemporary art foundation, to be housed in a building designed by architect Tadao Ando, on the outskirts of Paris. Now the billionaire is considering a major shift—moving his museum from the proposed site, a few miles from

PARIS—Five years ago French businessman and art collector François Pinault, who owns Christie’s International, announced plans for a contemporary art foundation, to be housed in a building designed by architect Tadao Ando, on the outskirts of Paris. Now the billionaire is considering a major shift—moving his museum from the proposed site, a few miles from Paris, to a Venice, Italy, palazzo.

Earlier this month, Venice authorities approved Pinault’s acquisition of a palace formerly owned by Fiat and currently being used as an exhibition space. Although it is much smaller than the Ando building intended for Pinault’s museum, Pinault would have the right to expand the space. Reports cite a figure around €29 million ($37.9 million) as the price of the palace.

“I have the feeling,” former culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon told the French daily Le Monde, “that François Pinault is disappointed by the behavior of the city of Boulogne, that they didn’t express overwhelming interest in his project.”

To date, no official announcements of a change have been made and, until such time, plans for Pinault’s foundation have not been stopped. The present agenda calls for construction on the site of an abandoned Renault car factory, just west of Paris on Ile Seguin along the Seine. The Pinault Foundation was originally slated to open in 2006, in a 33,000-square-meter building.

In the fall of 2003 Pinault requested a building permit that was accepted a year later, in September 2004. Philippe Vergne, senior art curator of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, was named the future director at that time, and a formal sales agreement was drawn up for approval.

But in late February 2005, when the agreement should have been finalized, construction that was slated to begin in March was halted on projects proposed by local urban developers, rendering impossible a projected opening date in 2006. Plans for development around the museum site remain inconclusive.

In recent months, several news reports have described Pinault’s dissatisfaction with local officials in Boulogne-Billancourt.

The foundation is intended to provide exhibition space for Pinault’s private collection, which includes some 2,500 works by such artists as Constantin Brancusi, Maurizio Cattelan, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol.

A spokesman in Pinault’s office declined to comment, as did officials at the Boulogne-Billancourt city hall.

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