François Pinault, the French luxury goods magnate and owner of Christie’s, looks set to expand his portfolio of prime property in Venice. Mr Pinault recently abandoned his plans to establish a contemporary art museum in Paris and instead bought an 80% share in the Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal to house a portion of his collection of contemporary art. Now he is considering an offer by the mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, to lease the State-owned 17th-century Punta della Dogana, located on the point between the Giudecca island and the Grand Canal.
A spokesperson for Mr Pinault says that “nothing has been signed yet, but the mayor, Professor Cacciari, has told Mr Pinault that the Punta della Dogana is available. Mr Pinault is very interested in the offer”.
The mayor has met with government officials, and they have reportedly approved a scheme whereby the property will come under the control of the City of Venice. As part of the new initiative, funding for the restoration of the building will be provided mainly by Mr Pinault with additional funds from the City.
The Art Newspaper understands that the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who designed Mr Pinault’s planned museum on the Ile Seguin in Paris, has been approached again by the French billionaire to design the new museum on the Punta della Dogana.
Earlier City proposals for the use of the Punta della Dogana have stalled, most notably the Guggenheim Collection’s plan, announced in 1999, to jointly lease the building with the local council to establish a museum of contemporary art.
According to reports in the Venetian press, Mr Pinault plans to hold exhibition of work by Venetian artists in the Punta della Dogana while shows drawn from his collection will be at the Palazzo Grassi from spring 2006.