Roll-over rate at Pinault's Venice exhibition spaces is too slow for many

Exhibitions at the Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi rotate after two years


French billionaire, François Pinault, owner of famous luxury brands and of Christie’s, is displaying two more large slices of his collection to the 2011 Venice Biennale public after the previous selection in the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, which remained on show unchanged for two years. So out with “Mapping the Studio, and in with “In Praise of Doubt” (until 31 December) at the Dogana, and “The World Belongs to You”, at the Palazzo Grassi (2 June-31 December).

The catch-all, interchangeable titles reveal the lack of hard intellectual content in these shows, where the challenge for his curators is to make Pinault’s huge collection of largely mainstream, well established, international contemporary artists resonate aesthetically and conceptually with one another. The previous curator, Alice Gingeras, has been replaced by Caroline Bourgeois, 49, who has worked with Pinault since 1998 when he asked her to form a collection of video art for him, and is now one of his most trusted collaborators.

Pinault bought the Palazzo Grassi on long lease in 2006 and he won a hard-fought stand-off with the Guggenheim Foundation to get the Punta della Dogana on a 30-year renewable lease from the town council in 2007. The agreement with the then mayor Massimo Cacciari was that the Dogana’s role would be to show Pinault’s collection, while the Palazzo Grassi was to hold large temporary exhibitions, alternating 20th-century art and the great civilisations of the world.

In practice, of the seven exhibitions in the Palazzo Grassi since 2006, four have been of the Pinault collection, one of “Rome and the Barbarians”, one on Picasso 1945-48 and one on Italian art 1968-2008. This has aroused some discontent in Venice, where the 2007 agreement looked forward to “synergies with other organisations and spaces”, more intellectual life, and free entry to both museums for Venetian residents (a single ticket costs E15), now limited to Wednesdays.


Our article on François Pinault’s museums in Venice (May 2011, p6) contained factual errors. The previous curator was Alison (not Alice) Gingeras, and the new curator, Caroline Bourgeois, is 52, not 49. “In Praise of Doubt” will remain on show until 31 December 2012, while “The World Belongs to You” runs until 31 December 2011. Venetian residents have only ever been offered free entry on Wednesdays.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Pinault rotates again'