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François Pinault
©2011 Matteo De Fina

François Pinault


Luxury goods and auctions

Contemporary art


The French businessman François Pinault—father of business magnate François-Henri and father in-law to actress Salma Hayek—founded Kering, the holding company for luxury goods that owns brands such as Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and others, in 1963, making him one of the foremost figures in the French fashion world. His influence extends to the art world, however, and in 1998 he acquired the majority stake in the Christie’s auction house for $1.2 billion. 

A high-school drop-out and self-made billionaire, Pinault started out in his family’s timber trade. Today, his contemporary-art collection is recognized as one of the world’s largest, and his net worth is valued at $29 billion. It has all the big names you might expect, like Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, and Urs Fischer. In 2005 he bought a palace in Venice, the Palazzo Grassi, to house parts of his collection; about four years later, in 2009, he opened a second space in the Italian city, the Punta della Dogana. (Both institutions are designed by starchitect Tadao Ando.) He is currently at work on plans to open another museum, this one in Paris, near the Louvre. In 2019, after the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris caught fire, he and François-Henri pledged to put €100 million (about $113 million at the time) toward the rebuilding campaign. His long-anticipated new gallery will open at the Bourse de Commerce was initially slated to open near the Louvre in June 2020, but was delayed because of the coronavirus, and is now expected to open in the spring of 2021. The $170 million new museum was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who worked on Pinault’s two Venetian galleries. The Bourse will hold seven galleries, and is topped by a dome adorned with a restored panorama painted by five artists.