The magnificent Bourse de Commerce.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection, a new museum in the network of sites and initiatives developed since 2006 by French billionaire businessman François Pinault, has opened its doors in the heart of Paris. It offers a glimpse of the collection of contemporary works that Pinault has built up for over forty years, through a programme of exhibitions and events. As a new Parisian museum in which this assemblage can be seen, the Bourse de Commerce, restored and transformed by the architect Tadao Ando, with Lucie Niney and Thibaut Marca of the NeM agency and Pierre-Antoine Gatier, opens up a dialogue between heritage and contemporary creation.
The artists whose work has been collected by Pinault come from every continent and multiple generations. They explore many fields of creation and especially attest to the close attention paid by the collector to emerging movements. The collection is devoted to art from the 1960s to the present day and provides a view of the art of our times, besides contributing to understanding the contemporary era. It is a body of over 10,000 works by nearly 380 artists, made up of paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, sound pieces, installations and performances. On August 27, a performance by French-Lebanese artist Tarek Atoui is on the cards. Atoui is organising several days of performances during which he will participate in the activation of his work, The Ground. Thanks to the staircase that unfurls around the concrete cylinder, and which crosses through the entire Bourse de Commerce, the foyer that hosts his piece, exhibited for the first time in France, becomes the theatre for The Ground sessions. The Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection is also the first Parisian museum exclusively devoted to contemporary art from a private collection. As in Venetian museums (the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana), the collection is seen through a permanent programme as well as temporary, “editorialised” shows: thematic and solo exhibitions, but also commissions, cartes blanches and in situ projects, with the objective of accompanying artists in their creations.
The Bourse de Commeerce comprises ten exhibition galleries as well as reception and mediation spaces. They can put on different presentations or else work together in a continuum. A 284-seater auditorium will host talks, discussions, projections, concerts and the like. The studio, a vast “black box” in the basement, is ideal for the presentation of video and sound pieces. The foyer, surrounding the auditorium, will also be able to host performances, installations and free forms. The restoration and transformation of the project began in 2017 and was completed in 2020, after three years of work.
The Bourse de Commerce (Commodities Exchange) is a building in Paris, originally used as a place to negotiate the trade of grain and other commodities. It bears witness to four centuries of architectural and technical prowess and associates the first free-standing column in Paris, built in the 16th century for the residence of Catherine de Medici, the vestiges of a grain exchange with an impressive circular floor dating back to the 18th century, which was then covered in 1812 by a spectacular metal and glass cupola.
It was refitted in 1889 to become the Bourse de Commerce. Located in the centre of Paris, in the area of Les Halles and giving onto the rue du Louvre, the building is emblematic of the history of the city and of its architecture. Ando has created the conditions for a dialogue between architecture and its context, between heritage and contemporary creation, between the past and the present, between the collection and the visitor. “It was completely by chance that I reunited with François Pinault in 2015, when I revisited Paris for the first time in many years,” says Ando. “However, he suddenly asked me whether I could design a project for him that he was planning in Paris.
“That project was the redesign of the Bourse de Commerce. Before I knew it, the key members of his project team had assembled in the room. I was stunned by his unexpected request, but I accepted it on the spot.” To understand Ando’s choices, it is important to know that during his first travels, his visit to the Pantheon in Rome was a revelatory experience for him — a place whose form echoes the central space of the Bourse de Commerce. It is in that ancient building, illuminated by an oculus at the top of the dome and vibrating to the rhythm of the sun’s rays, that Ando says he became aware, at the beginning of his career, of the notion of “architectural space.”
But in his current work, there is no question of a simple reproduction of the Pantheon; rather, it is an issue of moving toward an abstraction of its architectural space and lighting. In the case of the Bourse de Commerce, it is easily understood because of its analogy with the Roman monument. Ando dramatises the centre of the building through the presence of the cylinder, which grabs the attention of the visitor, enshrouded in the interplay of light and the shadow of the glass roof trusses. As of today, the Bourse de Commerce is the biggest production entrusted to him in France. French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec were invited to design the building’s furnishings. The Halle aux grains restaurant of the Bourse de Commerce has been entrusted to two chefs from the Aveyron, Michel and Sébastien Bras.
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