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Cultura e Mitologia / 07/08/2020

François Pinault, the last patron of La Serenísima

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François Pinault, the last patron of La Serenísima


The French luxury magnate has two privileged settings at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice, through which his collection of 3,000 works of contemporary art parades.

Born to a peasant family in Trévérien, a small town in French Brittany 83 years ago, François Pinault is one of the richest men on the planet. In the short version of the origin of his immense heritage, it can be said that he started in the business world buying and selling firewood the forests of his region, a scenario that quickly expanded by importing wood Canada and Scandinavia. He managed to sell that company in the early seventies for an amount that exceeded 50 times its initial value. Later it was done with firms such as Printemps, Conforama or Fnac until crowning itself as the true emperor of the luxury business (Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta). The family, represented by the Artemis group, also owns a football team (Stade Rennais), a theater (Marigny), a weekly newspaper (Le Point), an auction house (Christie's) and two museums in Venice: the Palazzo Grassi ( acquired the Agnelli) and Punta della Dogana. And last but not least, everything is almost ready for the artistic branch to continue growing in 2021 with a new space on the Paris Stock Exchange. Nothing less.

The Pinault Patriarch's approach to the art world began with his marriage to Maryvonne Campbell. His second wife, fond of antiques, introduced him to auctions. He managed to get him to buy Christie's, but the businessman must have considered that the field of ancient art was exhausted and preferred to immerse himself in contemporary art. His withdrawal the front line of business management in 2003 and the handing over of the scepter to his son François-Henri Pinault have served artists and gallery owners very well, who have dealt with a magnate who boasts of having no intermediaries and who have benefited being part of a collection with more than 3,000 pieces the 20th and 21st centuries.

The collection, which sprang up around a mondrian acquired in 1991, is quite a catalog of the big names that are forcibly featured on many of the blockbusters held by billionaires, but has also fostered the on-site creation of many young artists with few exhibitions. in their resumes and even no presence in the market. Among the funds owned by him are the names of Pablo Picasso, Kandinsky or Jackson Pollock together with Jeff Koons, Sigmar Polke, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Paul McCarthy or Thomas Schütte. And along with all these celebrities, there are young artists who are invited to intervene in any of the two museums in any of the imaginable supports.

In François Pinault's museums, the concept of permanent exhibition has been replaced by that of projects in which the curator creates a story about the owner's collections and specific and sometimes ephemeral pieces. Nothing is intended to last forever, so the billionaire regularly lends to international institutions and, in turn, he completes his exhibition program with works by others.

After the confinement, the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana reopened their doors the second weekend of July with faithful exhibitions to the line that they have maintained since they were inaugurated. In Dogana you can see Untitled, 2020. Three perspectives on the art of the present. Curated by Caroline Bourgeois, Muna El Fituri and artist Thomas Houseago, it is a reflection on the collection with works by 60 artists included in it. Eduardo Chillida, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Nairy Baghramian, Garry Barker, Maria Bartuszová, Lee Bontecou, ​​Marcel Broodthaers, Stanley Brouwn or Teresa Burga.

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In the Palazzo Grassi, the main protagonist is Cartier-Bresson on the first floor of the building. Under the title of The Great Game, 385 images that the artist considered as the most significant of his career are exhibited. Five amazing guests have chosen their 50 favorite images: the peculiar curators are the photographer Annie Leibovitz, the director Wim Wenders, the writer Javier Cercas, the curator and director of the Prints and Photography department of the National Library of France, Sylvie Aubenas, and the collector himself, François Pinault.

The youth art offer occupies the main floor of the palace with a monograph dedicated to the artist Youssef Nabil (Cairo, 1972), entitled Once Upon a Dream, curated by Matthieu Humery and Jean-Jacques Aillagon.

In a third space located next to the Grassi, known as El Teatrino, an extensive cultural and educational program has been held since 2013, organized in collaboration with institutions and universities in Venice itself and in foreign countries.

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