I’d been looking forward to visiting the Pinault Collection at the Bourse de Commerce ever since I read about it being under construction. I’ve had the website bookmarked for years. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic the opening was postponed, but summer 2021 it finally opened.
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was quite disappointed, both by the works on show and the architecture. The location, next to Les Halles and close to the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou, is perfect, but I don’t think the building lends itself that well to an art museum.
The Bourse de Commerce is a circular building, originally constructed between 1763 and 1767 as a site for the storage and trade of grain. In 1802 the wooden dome, which had been erected in 1782, was destroyed by fire. It was replaced by an iron dome. The corn exchange was closed in 1873 and in 1885 the building was assigned to the Commodities Exchange. In 2016, after years of neglect, François Pinault acquired a 50-year lease on the building and the right to transform the site into an exhibition space for contemporary art. Pinault commissioned Tadao Ando to oversee the building’s transformation.
The resulting structure is not among Ando’s best. The building doesn’t offer much by way of architectural opportunities and it would have been best to just renovate the structure, as France’s director of historic buildings and studio NeM did with particular care for detail. Ando meanwhile erected a 10-meter high concrete wall along the perimeter of the former trading floor which also functions as a staircase to the building’s upper level. Like all of Ando’s concrete walls it is a beautiful wall. The question is what it is doing there. Circular walls don’t lend themselves to hanging confining the central hall to sculptures and installations. It currently houses some melting sculptures by Urs Fischer, which are the crowd pleaser of the opening exhibition.
As to the inaugural collection presentation I don’t recall seeing anything noteworthy, just room after room of mostly figurative paintings by the likes of Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas, Martin Kippenberger and, yawn, Luc Tuymans. I don’t know what considerations went into creating this selection. I would imagine that Pinault and his team of curators would pick the best and most interesting works for the inaugural exhibition while creating some interesting contrasts and perspectives. I find it hard to believe that Pinault doesn’t have any more interesting works in his collection, which apparently consists of over 10,000 works by 400 artists. I also find it hard to believe that these are all works that Pinault himself is passionate about. But perhaps he keeps the works he loves most in his own house(s) or office.