Pinault drops Paris modern art gallery project

9th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 9 (AFP) - Billionaire businessman Francois Pinault dismayed the French art world Monday when he announced that he has dropped plans for a new gallery in Paris to house his major collection of modern works, blaming red tape.

PARIS, May 9 (AFP) - Billionaire businessman Francois Pinault dismayed the French art world Monday when he announced that he has dropped plans for a new gallery in Paris to house his major collection of modern works, blaming red tape.  

The 69-year-old tycoon - owner of Gucci, Christie's auction house and the FNAC chain of media stores - confirmed rumours that he will instead house the treasures in the 18th-century Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal in Venice, which he acquired last month.  

The estimated 2,500 items in Pinault's late 20th-century collection include works by Miro, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Rauschenberg and Jeff Koons as well as British artists Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.  

"Art moves in eternity - not according to building schedules," Pinault said in a statement.  

"Obstinately sticking to this project would be incompatible both with the original timeline and also with my strong desire, five years after the idea was launched, to see it reach its conclusion," he said.   

In 2000 the businessman - a close friend of President Jacques Chirac - unveiled lavish plans to build a EUR 150 million (USD 195 million) Fondation Pinault on the site of a disused Renault car factory on an island in the river Seine five kilometres (three miles) downstream from the Eiffel Tower.  

The opening of the gallery - designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando - was originally planned for this year, but construction never got underway.  

Pinault said his decision to abandon the plan was prompted by "the uncertainties that continue to weigh on the development of the site and the ever longer delays" it was encountering.  

Last month members of his entourage were quoted as blaming the municipal authorities in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt for adopting a lukewarm attitude to the proposed investment, and delaying construction through a succession of bureaucratic hurdles.  

The Palazzo Grassi, which was built in 1730, will stage its first exhibition of Pinault's collection before the end of this year. Added space will be created by the development of a theatre adjacent to the place, according to the statement.  

Art world insiders in Paris were horrified by news that the collection is to be lost, deploring France's inability to grasp cultural opportunities such as that offered by Pinault.  

"Pinault ... has been so discouraged by the attitude of the public authorities here," Catherine Millet, editor of Artpress magazine and author of the international best-seller "The Sexual Life of Catherine M," told AFP.  

"Once again we miss the boat. This was a great project - a foundation set up by a private citizen that could be an example to encourage others. ... It is a terrible message," she said.  

Paris recently failed in a bid to house the archives of the Australian photographer Helmut Newton, despite his known love of the city. Unable to elicit the response he hoped for, the photographer - who died in January 2004 - chose Berlin instead.  

"Despite all the rhetoric about promoting modern art, I don't think this country has changed its attitude. People still despise it. And they think a rich businessman like Pinault should put his money into good social causes rather than in what they see as a load of rubbish," Millet said.  

The Palazzo Grassi and its theatre annex are considerably smaller than the Fondation Pinault would have been, leading to speculation that the tycoon may disperse part of his collection among other European sites.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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