by Gautam Sen, Avik ChattopadhyayJan 13, 2021
The Bourse de Commerce, located in the heart of Paris, is a monument of immense historical, architectural and artistic significance, and has been the edifice of the display of Paris’ and France’s cultural and technical prowess for over four centuries now. Fitting of the vision and scope of French billionaire art collector François Pinault’s massive collection, the site was chosen to showcase Pinault’s latest contemporary art exhibit, collected and curated over four decades. Japanese architect Tadao Ando (TAAA - Tadao Ando Architect & Associates), the NeM agency (Niney et Marca Architectes), Pierre-Antoine Gatier’s agency and Setec Bâtiment came together to restore and transform the site for hosting this sizeable collection in an effort to reflect both, the historical significance of the Bourse de Paris and the contemporary outlook of Pinault’s art collection, spanning over a period of three years.
Both Pinault and Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of the city of Paris, along with whom Pinault announced his decision to open another site to display his collection back in 2016, felt that even though the 16th century site was emblematic and iconic in its own right, it would still require a complete restoration and transformation for it to be suited to host a contemporary art collection. Given that, the choice of Tadao Ando as the name associated with the revamped architectural style of the site was but obvious for Pinault and the city of Paris. Furthermore, Ando’s repertoire of having earlier restored the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, refurbishing the Punta della Dogana and recreating the Teatrino stood testament to his ability to “reconcile the dialogue between architecture and its context, the past and the present, radicality and discretion,” believes Pinault.
The Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection will host the French businessman and art collector’s private collection of over 10,000 works by almost 380 artists, including paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, sound pieces, installations and performances. Pinault’s collection has been carefully curated by him over a period of more than 40 years, from the art of 1960s to our times, and further spans every continent on the planet and several generations of artists. Akin to the dense cultural programming of Pinault’s earlier collections at the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana, this collection too will be showcased in a series of both temporary and permanent displays, “editorialised” shows: thematic and solo exhibitions, commissions, cartes blanches and in situ projects. The Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection will become the first Parisian museum exclusively devoted to contemporary art from a private collection upon its opening, and is all set to host 15 projects a year, debuting with its first season in spring 2021, titled Opening.
Tadao Ando’s new, radical design showcases complete respect to the historical nature of the site and its immense importance in heritage circles. In keeping with that, the building’s exteriors and all its listed elements, including its interior facades, glass ceilings, and paintings, have been simply restored as close to their original form as possible. Pinault exclaims that the realisation of this site for his latest collection completes a larger, overarching cultural project that he undertook a decade ago, including the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana, aiming to share his passion for the art of his times with as many people as possible.
The interior design of the restored building showcases trademark style of Ando’s architecture, flowing with creative genius. Designed with a nearly modular approach in mind, the new circular architectural layout mirrors the restored cupola above, establishing a hierarchical rhythm in the exhibition spaces as patrons and visitors make their way from a 284-seat auditorium in the basement, to a total of 10 exhibition galleries and ateliers, as well as reception and mediation spaces distributed among three floors over the ground. Among the vast array of spaces, the basement also houses a vast “black box” style studio, ideal for audio-visual installations and presentations.
The circular section of the new layout is in consonance with the urban symmetry of the site and includes a rotunda at its centre. It is within the rotunda that a concrete cylindrical mass of 30 metres diameter and a height of nine meters has been inserted to form the galleries and exhibition space. Ando states that the concentric, circular spatial layout tends to “set off a tense and more subtle dialogue between the new and the old”. With the auditorium below and the main exhibition spaces above, the cylindrical concrete volume forms a corridor on the outside, an internal street so to say between the exterior of the concrete wall and the interior of the façade. The volume is also punctuated with asymmetrical openings that provide a peek into the host galleries, along with forming varied fenestrations to funnel natural light in. Along with the inner street, a series of staircases accompany movement and provide access to various levels. Ando felt that the circular geometry, a recurring planning motif of Ando, meant nothingness, and in an apparently contradictory way, everything, in keeping with a Japanese school of thought.
The street circles up, rises and culminates in a circular walkway, which serves as a deck to view the frescos at the base of the cupola, painted in 1889 by five artists and depicting French trade across the continents. Apart from a physical culmination, Ando felt that the fresco deck also marked a more metaphorical combination to the succession of the spaces and galleries below it. The circular deck also provides magnificent views of the glass ceiling above, viewed as the natural zenith of the museum journey. The top most floor houses a restaurant offering expansive views of the city of Paris, La Halle aux Grains, and has been entrusted to two chefs from the Aveyron, Michel and Sébastien Bras.
The French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have been entrusted to conceive the building’s furnishings personally by François Pinault. Working with the NeM agency, they have also created the furnishings for the restaurant on the third floor, and have also conceived the urban furnishings around the building, in its forecourt and on Rue de Viarmes, in a perimeter given over to pedestrians after the building work. “The new Bourse de Commerce is a play of contrasts, it leaps between eras,” stated Ronan and Bouroullec on the choice of interior furnishings. “It was vital not to “decorate” these spaces, or disturb this union of contrasts, just to accompany them”.
The Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection is all set to open its doors to the public on January 23, 2021.