French billionaire to open art museum

Art collector Francois Pinault has commissioned award-winning architect Tadao Ando to convert the 19th-century Bourse de Commerce (above).
Art collector Francois Pinault has commissioned award-winning architect Tadao Ando to convert the 19th-century Bourse de Commerce (above).PHOTO: REUTERS
Art collector Francois Pinault has commissioned award-winning architect Tadao Ando to convert the 19th-century Bourse de Commerce (above).
Art collector Francois Pinault has commissioned award-winning architect Tadao Ando to convert the 19th-century Bourse de Commerce (above).PHOTO: REUTERS
Art collector Francois Pinault (above) has commissioned award-winning architect Tadao Ando to convert the 19th-century Bourse de Commerce.
Art collector Francois Pinault (above) has commissioned award-winning architect Tadao Ando to convert the 19th-century Bourse de Commerce.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Francois Pinault plans to show his $1.9-billion collection of modern masters in the Bourse de Commerce in Paris

PARIS • One of the world's biggest art collectors unveiled on Monday his plans for a spectacular new museum in Paris, cementing the city's claim to be a modern art capital.

French billionaire Francois Pinault will show his US$1.4-billion (S$1.9-billion) collection of modern masters in the domed Bourse de Commerce, within a stone's throw of the Louvre, long the world's most visited museum.

The new gallery, which he said would open in early 2019, is also within sight of Pompidou Centre, which houses Europe's largest modern art collection.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo called the museum "an immense gift" and told reporters it would help put the city back at the top of the modern art tree.

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Mr Pinault, 80, holds an enormous trove of abstract and contemporary masterpieces in a 3,500-piece collection that includes work from Mark Rothko to Damien Hirst.

He owns auction house Christie's and built a fashion empire that contains labels such as Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.

He already has his own private museum in Venice. But he has been trying for decades to find a home for his collection in Paris.

That desire sharpened when his great business rival Bernard Arnault, who controls the LVMH luxury goods conglomerate, opened the Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation for his art collection in 2014.

Mr Pinault has commissioned another Pritzker-winning architect, Japanese master Tadao Ando, to convert the magnificent 19th- century Bourse de Commerce, which sits on the edge of Paris' former central market district.

Ando compared the circular building with the ancient Pantheon in Rome. He said the concrete cylinder he plans for the inside of the building would be "the cultural epicentre of Paris, which in turn is the epicentre of culture in the world".

He plans to create three floors of galleries under the building's dome, whose spectacular frescos representing trade with the five continents are also being restored.

Asked if he was going to expand his collection to fill the new space, Mr Pinault said: "When you see a new work, you have to know when to jump on it. The big public institutions cannot do that.

"We are a museum in movement and (will be) very complementary to the existing institutions."

In 2001, he handed the reins of his empire to his son Francois- Henri, who is married to Hollywood star Salma Hayek.

Since then, the man once described as "the most powerful in the art world" has mostly dedicated himself to his art collection, installing it in the Palazzo Grassi in Venice and two other historic buildings there.

The Venice venues are likely to work in tandem with the new Paris gallery.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'French billionaire to open art museum'. Print Edition | Subscribe