François Pinault

Pinault commits $110m to new museum

Japanese architect Tadao Ando will visit the site this month


The billionaire owner of Christie’s, François Pinault, will spend around $110m to transform the dilapidated Customs House in Venice (Punta della Dogana) into a museum to show work from his extensive contemporary and modern collection. Mr Pinault, who beat off competition from the Guggenheim to secure the site, is to be given a 30-year lease on the Punta della Dogana for free. In exchange, he will spend about E25m ($32.5m) restoring the site, according to former French Minister of Culture, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, who now serves as director of Mr Pinault’s museum at the Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal.

Mr Aillagon also estimates that the project will cost Mr Pinault about E2m ($2.6m) a year to run, once revenues from tickets and catalogues are taken into account. “If you work this out over 30 years, Mr Pinault is committing himself to about E85m ($110.5m) for the whole project,” said Mr Aillagon.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Mr Aillagon said that work on the Customs House will start immediately, even though the final contract with the Venice city authorities was only due to be signed at the beginning of June. But “as a first step we have started working with [the Japanese architect] Tadao Ando, who will visit the Punta della Dogana mid-June”, said Mr Aillagon. “We hope to have a final project in September or October and to start building work immediately. It’s an optimistic programme, but Mr Pinault likes things to proceed quickly and we will try to keep to the deadline of opening in time for the 2009 Venice Biennale,” he said.

Mr Pinault’s 30-year lease is renewable, but, said Mr Aillagon, “We can imagine that it could become permanent.”

As part of the agreement, Mr Pinault has chosen 141 works from his collection which will be put on long-term display in the 3,500 sq. m exhibition space in the Dogana; these include Carl Andre’s 60-metre-long 37th Piece of Work, 1969-81, which Mr Pinault bought for around $7m in 2005.

Other works of art from the collection may also be shown, said Mr Aillagon. Despite rumours reported in the press, Mr Pinault is not funding any further projects in the Italian city. “Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, and that’s it,” said Mr Aillagon.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 181 June 2007