Last Updated on July 19, 2023
It was slated to open in June 2020, and billed as one of the most important new arts centers to join the Parisian landscape. But the outbreak of a global pandemic would delay its public inauguration date nearly a year. Now, the Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection, owned by French businessman François Pinault and showcasing works from his family’s impressive contemporary art holdings, is finally scheduled to open its doors to the public on May 22, 2021.
Boasting 10 exhibition galleries, including one consecrated to multimedia and digital media works, the new space also houses a large Auditorium. It represents the latest contemporary art center to be opened by the Pinault Foundation, which already operates two existing locations in Venice.
The new center in Paris, housed in a historic 19th-century commercial building redesigned by Tadao Ando and the agency NeM/Niney & Marca Architects, will stage some 10 annual exhibitions– from displays highlighting certain artists or themes held within the permanent collection, to solo shows from commissioned contemporary artists.
Collection & Exhibitions
Future exhibitions will draw on the Pinault Collection’s more than 10,000 works of modern and contemporary art, which includes masterpieces from the likes of Braque, Picasso, Ferdinand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, and many others. It also comprises thousands of works from rising-star global artists, from painters to video artists and photographers.
The Foundation is expected to collaborate with the Pinault Foundation’s existing centers in Venice, as wel as with other Parisian and French museums, on certain exhibits.
The Inaugural Exhibit & “Open House” Days in May
The Inaugural Exhibit, opened on May 22nd, 2021, pays tribute to the “Picture Generation”: twentieth-century photographers Michel Journiac, Louise Lawler, Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman and Martha Wilson, who moved away from viewing photography as a medium that reflects reality.
Instead, these groundbreaking artists used their lenses to, in the words of the curators, “create forms of fiction, challenging notions of identity, and [raise] new questions about art, gender and identity.”
The Building: History, Architecture & The Revamp
Melding neoclassical Parisian architecture with sleek but complementary contemporary structures, the new Pinault Foundation art center is nestled within a commercial building dating to 1763-1767, and once used as a commodities trading center, primarily by grain traders.
It features a large, open-air court within its interiors, later crowned with an added iron and glass dome in the early 19th century. By 1889 (the same year the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated, incidentally), the building was in bad disrepair, and it was overhauled, but the essential parts of the original design were retained. It would eventually become the Paris Stock Exchange (which is now housed in a different building).
When the Pinault Foundation settled on the historic granary trading house as the site for their new Parisian arts hub, they hired the Japanese architect Tadao Ando of the aforementioned architectural firm, as well as the French agency Pierre-Antoine Gatier. Work on the building began in 2017 and was completed in early 2020, fuelled by an investment that reportedly soared to around $100 million.
The architects retained the traditional facade and free-standing “Medicis” column dating to the 15th century that stands just outside it, but restored its details to their former glory.
The interiors, meanwhile, highlight the building’s centuries-old frescoes and stunning 19th-century glass and metallic cupola, but complement these with bold new elements– chiefly the concrete cylinder structure rising 30 ft high and 100 feet across that was built below the original cupola, and designed to host the center’s main exhibition galleries.
There are also “modular”, smaller galleries and spaces for conferences or workshops, and a new restaurant on the third floor.
The result is an eye-catching, airy space abundant with circular, cylindrical forms and movements, ushering visitors through corridors and open areas that effectively stage a dialogue between different architectural styles, periods and aesthetic approaches.
For example, the image below shows how the new “building within the building” (the concrete cylinder structure housing the exhibition space” forms and interesting but unobtrusive contrast to the original rotunda and its windows, lamps, and tile-mosaic flooring.
Architect Ando said this of the project and his approach to the redesign:
“With the Louvre to the south-west and the Pompidou Centre to the east, the Bourse de Commerce is part of the newly-redesigned Les Halles district, and is truly located in the heart of Paris […] My job was to transform this building into a contemporary art museum, without touching the structure that is classified as a historical monument. I was to revive the building, honouring the memory of the city inscribed in its walls, and slot another structure into its interior, inspired by the concept of Russian dolls. The idea was to design a lively space that would foster a dynamic dialogue between the new and the old, which is what a site dedicated to contemporary art should be“.
As Ando notes, one can see the development of the new Bourse de Commerce center as a larger part of the ambitious transformation of the Les Halles area, which saw the enormous shopping, dining and cinema complex flanked by gardens and pedestrian lanes gutted and revamped for an eye-watering 1 billion Euros in 2016.
While the aesthetic features of the New Les Halles aren’t to everyone’s taste– the columnist in the same Guardian piece described it as “a custard-coloured flop”– the revitalization of central Paris is arguably something to cheer.
And the new Pinault Collection flagship in the capital promises to contribute to it– even if some might lament the fact that giant corporations and billionaire families tend to serve as the primary fuel (and funding) for the city’s 21st-century art scene.
Getting There & Practical Info
The Bourse de Commerce is located in central Paris, not far from Les Halles, the bustling urban neighborhood known as the Grands Boulevards, the Louvre-Tuileries area and the vibrant Rue Montorgueil market quarter. It can easily be reached by Metro or RER commuter train via numerous lines.
- Address: 2 Rue de Viarmes, 75001 (1st arrondissement)
- Metro: Les Halles, Chatelet-les-Halles (also an RER stop), Louvre-Rivoli, or Réaumur-Sebastopol
- Tel: +33 (0)1 55 04 60 60
- For more information, including tickets & current exhibitions: See this page at the official website
Courtney Traub is the Founder and Editor of Paris Unlocked. She’s a longtime Paris resident who now divides her time (as well as she can manage) between the French capital and Norwich, UK. Co-author of the 2012 Michelin Green Guide to Northern France & the Paris Region, she has been interviewed as an expert on Paris and France by the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Le Figaro, Matador Network and other publications. Courtney has also written and reported stories for media outlets including Radio France Internationale, The Christian Science Monitor, Women’s Wear Daily and The Associated Press. In addition to pursuing an insatiable interest in French culture, history, food and art, Courtney is a scholar of literature and cultural history whose essays and reviews have appeared in various forums.