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  • Writer's pictureKate Woodman

Le nouveau musée à Paris: Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection

Quand j’ai déménagé à Paris en 2017, j’ai noté un bâtiment inhabituel près du Forum des Halles, où je suis allée tout le temps pour acheter les choses pour mon appartement. Ce bâtiment était grand et rond et il était entouré par les échafaudages…c’était un chantier. J’étais curieuse de connaitre qu’est-ce que c’est ce bâtiment. Enfin le mystère a été résolu quand j’ai lu l'année dernière que c’est la vieille « Bourse de Commerce » et que l’homme d’affaires français François Pinault restaurait comme un musée pour sa collection d’art contemporain. La Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection est ouvert le 22 mai et j’y suis allée la semaine dernière.

When I moved to Paris in 2017, I noticed an unusual building close to the “Forum des Halles” a shopping center where I found myself spending a lot of time buying things for my apartment. This building was large and round and surrounded by scaffolding…it was a construction site. I was of course curious about this building, but it wasn’t until last year that I finally saw something about it in the press. The building was the old Bourse de Commerce (stock exchange) and it was being restored by billionaire French businessman François Pinault, to house part of his contemporary art collection (over 10,000 works of art from the 1960’s to the present). The Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection opened the 22nd of May and I went last week for my first visit.

Front of building and entrance

Back of the building....the 15th century Medici column is on the left

D’abord, un peu d’histoire du bâtiment. Le bâtiment de la Bourse de Commerce témoigne de cinq siècles de prouesses architecturales et techniques. Il associe la première colonne isolée de Paris, édifiée au 15e siècle pour l’hôtel de Catherine de Médicis, les vestiges d’une halle au blé à l’impressionnant plan circulaire du 18e siècle, couverte dès 1812 par une spectaculaire coupole de métal et de verre. Il a été recomposé en 1889 pour devenir la « Bourse de Commerce ».

Le monument est aujourd’hui revivifié par le geste architectural contemporain de Tadao Ando.

The Bourse de Commerce building represents four centuries of architectural and technical feats. It brings together the first free-standing column in Paris, erected in the 15th century for Catherine de Medicis’ palace, with the vestiges of a granary impressive for its circular 18th-century design, which was capped in 1812 with a spectacular metal and glass dome. The building was then modified in 1889 to become the “Paris Stock Exchange”.

For 20 years, François Pinault had been looking for a Paris home for his contemporary art collection. Finally in 2017, he announced that he had acquired a renewable 50-year lease of the Bourse de Commerce. The building’s masterful renovation and redesign was overseen by Japanese architect Tadao Ando

Beautifully-restored original Corinthian columns, moldings and sculptural detail in the museum entrance hall

Let me just say that, the collection aside (though I must say that it's growing on me), I am very impressed by the building. The marrying of old and new, tradition and modernity, the quality of the renovation and attention to every detail. The nod to the past while embracing the present new use of the building. Paris is fortunate to have this historic building restored and open for all to enjoy. It is indeed a wonderful gift that François Pinault has bestowed on Paris, its citizens and visitors.

Of course, the building is dominated by the immense rotunda at its center. Upon entering, the eye is immediately drawn to the glass and metal dome soaring 40 meters above, then to the restored 19th century frescoes entitled "Triumphal France," representing the history of trade between the five continents. Next are two levels of original windows and finally the 9 meter high concrete cylinder dropped into the Rotunda by architect Ando. It is truly a magnificent space!

Viewed from the balcony created by the Ando's concrete cylinder

Faux pigeons on the balcony

Old and new.....19th century frescoes, original plaster work and Ando's concrete cylinder

Two doors of the "passageway" which surrounds the Rotunda

Original details - stock exchange bell?

A museum guard in the Rotunda

Installed in the Rotunda is a piece by Swiss artist Urs Fischer. As described on the museum website: “Composed of wax sculptures, Untitled (2011) is a group of monumental candles lit on the first day of the exhibition. It is a life-size replica of Giambologna’s The Abduction of the Sabine Women (1579-1582). In addition, there is an effigy of artist Rudolf Stingel [Urs Fischer’s friend and peer] contemplating seven different chairs (ranging from an African stool to a banal plastic chair to an airline seat). Before being lit, this ensemble of candles encapsulates mastery, realism, verticality, and virtuosity but over the course of the exhibition, as the candles burn, these values ​​are inverted by the workings of chance and entropy: the sculpture becomes informal, even formless. The wax liquefies, and that which seemed perennial and genuine, turns out to be fragile and fictitious. Untitled lasts as long as the wicks of the candles continue to burn." In 6 months, the piece will have burned away.

Wax drippings are visible on the chest of the female figure

The female figure's left arm has burned off and was lying in pieces on the floor

Woman and wax sculpture of artist Rudolf Stingel, a friend of the artist

Two levels of exhibition galleries circumnavigate the Rotunda. For the inaugural exhibition, Pinault personally curated the selections from his collection and entitled it "Ouverture" (Opening). Thirty artists are represented, more than a third of whom had not previously been exhibited in the collection.

Sesta by Antonio Obá

Untitled by David Hammons

The Wonderful One by Kerry James Marshall

View of Rotunda from a gallery's windows

Another view featuring visitor's "rope" chair designed by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

A wonderful feature of the Bourse de Commerce is its "double helix staircase," a vestige of the 18th century Halle au blé (grain exchange). At that time, corn was stored on two levels, the ground floor and a granary to which the double helix stairway led. The two ramps, which intertwined in two distinct helixes, allowed the porters who went up and down carrying voluminous sacks of corn to avoid crossing each other. The staircase has been enhanced by 3 vertical lights designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, who were commissioned to design the museum's furnishings.

Rope bench and chairs designed by the Bouroullec brothers in the "passageway" on the perifery of the Rotunda

In addition to the lighting, team Bouroullec also designed all the furniture (including sumptuous carpets), both inside and outside, including 3 glorious shimmering flags which I absolutely LOVE! In the words of the designers: “We also imagined flags up in the air like mobiles. Because of the material they’re made of, the flags appear like molten metal, somewhere between water and metal, gold and silver. The mast, which will probably be gilded, will sit on an imposing base inspired by a rock. The mobile is like a sculpture, creating something intangible while reflecting the surroundings, the sky and Paris itself. “

I will confess that, immediately after my visit to the Bourse-Pinault (as I refer to it), I told a friend that I was not "wowed" by either the collection or the building. However, the more I read about François Pinault as an art collector and patron of the arts, about architect Tadao Ando and his creative process, and about Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and their approach to design, I changed my mind. I am totally and completely WOWED by the new Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection and strongly encourage those who can to see it.....I doubt you will be disappointed.

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