Night, the end of the tip of the tip of the Customs is one of the quietest places of Venice. Francois Mitterrand knew, who had to walk when he was staying in the painter Zoran Music. It is here that, after the "Balloon Dog" of Jeff Koons and sparkling Indian artist Subodh Gupta death head François Pinault "the collector" dream of a new emblem, at the gates of the serene. Where a poor lamp signals the entrance of the Grand Canal, it flirts with the project to install a singular work. A contemporary totem destined to become an icon of the city of the Doges, such Lady wealth of bronze that overcomes today the globe golden sea customs. Two years after regaining the Agnelli Palazzo Grassi, reopened in April 2006 after renovation by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, the founder of PPR double implementation. By signing, tomorrow two days before the opening of the 52nd Biennale in public a concession contract with the city of Venice for the installation of a portion of its collection on the tip of the customs, he will celebrate also his victory on the Guggenheim.
"I had the certainty that our record was much more comprehensive and serious than their". I knew that on an important point of the call for tenders, the possibility of mobilizing permanently a heritage of works to the benefit of the activities of the centre of art, the Guggenheim, in view of his organization and the role of the "trustees", would be less well placed. "In our case, everything depends on one man", said today the Director of the Palazzo Grassi, Jean-Jacques Aillagon. "A single man". Everything is said. To take this building symbolizing the maritime vocation of Venice but rest abandoned for half a century, the pattern of Gucci and Christie's developed its weight in the battle. In reality, his victory is also a great European private collector on the "Guggenheim"system, a network of franchises with which now wants to compete the Louvre in Abu Dhabi in 2012 (read box).
Two projects reported ex aequo
"The Guggenheim Foundation responded to the preconditions set by the call to tender for the permanent collection and, in a way, it is therefore auto-exclue," summarizes the Mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, in its vast Office of the Ca'Farsetti, on the Grand Canal. Since the beginning of the negotiations two years ago, the Mayor-philosopher (centre-left) of Venice, is regarded as a staunch supporter of the Pinault bid. Had he not publicly launched at the climb: "And now, if your interest is at the forefront of customs" may 11, 2005, as the signing of the contract of resumption of Palazzo Grassi for EUR 29 million. Nevertheless. Quiet pressure from the President of the region Veneto Giancarlo Galan (centre-right), a relative of Silvio Berlusconi, the Guggenheim Foundation is resolved to table an offer for the tip of the customs, with the support of the Bank Dutch ABN AMRO. Even Peggy Guggenheim, Philip Rylands, Director of the Foundation chose the Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid to defend the colors of the American Museum. It wasn't until January 23, 2007 before a Committee of experts chaired by the art critic Achille Bonito Oliva said the two candidates... ex adquo. A "stuffing the Feydeau", then asked the Italian newspaper "La repubblica". "The pattern of the Guggenheim has made every work for double Pinault on the post", it says in the entourage of the breton industrial. At a recent Conference on the future of Venice, Massimo Cacciari has even raised the hypothesis of "cheap shots" during the competition. But on April 5, 2007, the municipality of Venice announces the opening of exclusive negotiations with Palazzo Grassi SPA (the subsidiary of Pinault), "the Solomon r. Guggenheim Foundation did not provide the list of works intended to be the permanent staffing of the centre of art for 30 years".
Despite the skepticism of the old Venetian aristocracy which is mine refuse French successor to the Agnelli at Palazzo Grassi, the Mayor does not hide his satisfaction. "Pinault developed the list of the works of the 1960s to today representing the basic trends of current artistic research." "It is exactly needs Venice, which wants to put the cap on the research and innovation," says Massimo Cacciari to "echoes". "Venice was already important museums of modern art (with the Ca'Pesaro and the Guggenheim Foundation) but not space dedicated to the most current and most provocative research", adds Mayor.
"A true visibility."
Cost estimate of the work of renovation of the jurisdiction of François Pinault (and entrusted to Tadao Ando): between 19 and 26 million euros. In Exchange, the breton businessman has a "subconcession" of thirty years renewable. The consolidation of the banks will be the responsibility of public authorities. Objective: opening of the centre of the customs(5,000 m2) in June 2009 for the next biennial. "Bold, but possible," said Massimo Cacciari, while noting that it is a "very delicate" building
In the eyes of the art dealer Marc Blondeau, the choice of Pinault meets a certain logic. Because, over the years, the pattern of Artemis became one of the six first global contemporary art collectors, with a set of 2,500 coins valued between 1 and $ 2 billion. "For him, the tip of the Customs was a necessary project, because the Palazzo Grassi is an intimate Museum where it can show large installations of contemporary art." "This will give real visibility," considers the recognized expert who has long advised Jérôme Seydoux and Claude Berri, before moving to Geneva. On the other hand, "the Guggenheim is not at all in the emerging art." At Bilbao, there is nothing revolutionary. "The collection of contemporary art was established a little at the last minute", underlines this close to François Pinault who helped him build a large part of his collection of postwar American art (Rauschenberg, Robert Ryman and other masters of pop art...).
An endowment of 141 works
What is the purpose of the tip of the customs "This will be a centre of contemporary art based on the collection of François Pinault," replied Jean-Jacques Aillagon, including the possible departure risk of complicating the game. Because the "consul" Pinault Venice could succeed the current Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, President of the public establishment of Versailles. "For thirty years, it waives the availability of 141 works which constitute the staffing of the centre d'art." This will be the core. But they will not necessarily presented continuously. It will also deploy its relational policy with other institutions. "This does not mean that the Pinault collection real to its port of"institutional docking"in Venice. As early as mid-October, a major temporary exhibition (photographs, videos...) will be held in Lille, in the wake of Jim Shaw in New York, until 24 September.
For many observers, the tip of customs remains not a project much more modest than that of the Seguin (33.000 m2, including 16,000 m2 of exhibition) island abandoned in 2005, to the chagrin of the Mayor of Boulogne-Billancourt, Jean-Pierre Fourcade. "Pinault has done that, in view of the French burdens, the project of Boulogne-Billancourt might be too heavy for his heirs." "The Italy offers more flexibility", observes an expert. "The project of the Seguin Island, it is finished." It does not seek to reproduce it elsewhere. "This has nothing to do", insists Jean-Jacques Aillagon.
A challenge: attracting the public
Despite a successful critical undeniable "press is at his feet", notes an expert the first exhibitions of Palazzo Grassi, version Pinault, hardly attracted crowds. The public is not always to the appointment. "How it could be otherwise." All museums of contemporary art are rigorously empty everywhere in Italy. "It must educate the public," explained the Mayor of Venice. "The attendance is not our priority", says Jean-Jacques Aillagon. The new owner of Palazzo Grassi does is less committed to reconnect with exhibitions on civilization (Etruscans, Celts...) which have been the glory of the era Agnelli. Palazzo Grassi thus established "Rome and the barbarians," in January 2008, reaching levels of attendance of 250,000 to 500,000 visitors.
Will the owner of Gucci be the worthy heir of the Agnelli in Venice No one knows yet truly the magnitude and the real value of its collection, which remains dispersed among its Mormaire Castle, in Yvelines, Paris and Venice. But the recent records in New York by the Rothko ("White Center") sold $ 73 million at Sotheby's and the Warhol ("Green Car Crash") awarded 72 million at Christie's suggest that contemporary art has the wind in its sails. "There is a very net excitement of market globalization and the emergence of new collectors: Chinese, Indian, South American...". "For them, the purchase of works becomes a sign of distinction, in the sense that it employed the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu," notes Jean-Jacques Aillagon. Public museums can no longer follow. These are the major private collectors who take over. Already owner of several Rothko or Cy Twombly, François Pinault bought much. And sometimes also sells "to prune".
"Venice is the refuge of a disappointed passion or a second-best solution." "It is a starting point and the expectation of many adventures," wrote industrial breton in his "I surrenders", in the form of "J'accuse", published by "The world" may 10, 2005, in the wake of the abandonment of the Seguin Island project. Dependants, now, for him to transform the sea customs in edge of artistic innovation.