While waiting on line at 11 am with a group of Americans, I had the feeling that Paris was back on its feet. Foreign visitors are coming and English is being spoken on the street. You have to book online to visit Collection Pinault at Bourse de Commerce or you can pick up tickets across the street at an automatic teller, a few hours ahead. But then you have to queue for security checks, like in airports, and this is tedious. Everyone is charming, the usual suspects try to walk in with special cards, and beg not to queue. In short, once you are inside you feel relieved and I went straight to the top floor to see the views from the restaurant, La Halle aux grains, opened by Michel Bras. There are lovely views of Saint Eustache and you even see the Pompidou center at a distance. Then I slowly walked down on the original double helix staircase, a true beauty. And I was alone in the painting galleries because everyone had started from the ground floor.
All my friends (the collection opened on May 22) had already told me about the beauty of Tadao Ando‘s architecture and the minimalism of the collections. So I was afraid to be disappointed. But not at all. The wonderful combination of the concrete 29 m diameter circular wall and the 19 th century paintings by Alexis-Joseph Mazerolle on the ceiling is very happy and the light inside the building is breathtaking. Of course it would be much nicer with no visitors and absolute silence. I can imagine François Pinault’s delight when he walked into the finished building on his own.
The monument itself has an interesting story. It was started in 1767 as a corn exchange, Halle à blé. Corns were stored on two levels, a ground floor and a granary to which the double helix staircase led. The two ramps which intertwine allowed the porters who went up and down with voluminous sacks to avoid crossing each other.
The large glass roof was entirely restored during the three years of works and the zinc roof tiles (44 000) were replaced. Mazerolle’s paintings were entirely cleaned. For the opening, François Pinault was the only curator and chose each work himself. The Swiss artist Urs Fischer is in the rotunda with his melting wax sculptures and in the galleries the choice is very politically correct with women’s photography and Brazilian artist Antonio Oba and African Americans Kerry James Marshall and David Hammons. There is a large selection of German artists like Thomas Schütte, Martin Kippenberger and Florian Krewer .
The way the space and the collections are organized is very original. There are many series: 24 pieces by Bertrand Lavier (one of the rare French artists) are exhibited in 1889 wooden windows on the ground floor. Ten chairs sculpted by Tatiana Trouvé are disseminated around the museum, creating a surprise in many galleries, they are called The Guardian. I loved them. Twelve bronze and steel sculptures by Thomas Schütte hang in a room dedicated to the German artist with six wonderful blue watercolors of blues men.
There are series of photographs by Michel Journiac (1935-1995), Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler, Martha Wilson in Galerie 3. This space is quite austere and of course protected from daylight. On the lower floor a beautiful small amphitheater already has a program of concerts. The place is vibrant and happy, slightly too crowded maybe?
The details of the architecture are wonderful and besides the quality of the concrete (which was already noticeable in I.M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid forty years ago, the softness of the handrails, the smoothness of the stairs, the peacefulness of the cylinder, are all a tribute to the architectural team around Tadao Ando.
It will be interesting to see how the different exhibitions evolve since François Pinault owns 10 000 works in his collection. Today he wanted to show the best of very contemporary art. And he is convincing most of the time. I will go back and have lunch at Bras upstairs and wander down happily on a sunny day.
Collection Pinault, until December 31, 2 rue de Viarmes. A concert of Ema DJ will take place on June 30. Closed Tuesdays. The restaurant La Halle aux grains has a 54€ menu but I have not tried it yet.
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