Venice is Casanova, Henry James, the silhouette of a lady who writes thrillers, the square indescribable in its beauty, the palazzos, the channels, the tiles that Marcel Proust walked on. The Magic of Thomas Mann, Hemingway in front of a beer at Harry’s bar. The echoes of Petrarch…
We find all this and much more in the beautiful and moist city. Walking through its labyrinthine streets, along the canals, is reason enough to visit Venice. However, the lovers of contemporary art only used to approach this cosy city for the Venice Biennale. But in recent years Venice has, thanks to the hand of Pinault, become an emblem of the past that houses the art of the future. The Dux of fashion and luxury had to arrive for Venice, where art is abundant, to become an unbeatable destination to see the more contemporary proposals.
Because that is what this proposal is about: come to Venice for a weekend to see the great contemporary artists housed in two magnificent palaces, the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana. The owner of the auction house Christie’s and the PPR group -which includes from FNAC to the biggest fashion brands; from Yves Saint Laurent to Balenciaga, has a personal collection of over 2,500 art works. Apart from visiting the city of dreams, the trip also involves visits to various places that are open to the public with some of his extraordinary private art collection.
He started collecting art in 1990 paying 6.5 million Euros for a Mondrian at Christie’s. Eight years later, the restless and stubborn man took control of the legendary auction house. The ”spiritual quest” that according to him guides his artistic choices approached him to minimalism, the pop exuberance and the best artists of this century. ”I’m interested in art that challenges me, that disturbs the quiet and comfort of the bourgeois lifestyle”, he commented.
Any collection if not exposed is a mystery and Pinault wanted to have a museum on an island on the Seine. The permits took forever so he calmly declared ”Eternity is for art, not for projects intended to serve the art”.
In 2005, he acquired 80% of the Palazzo Grassi from the Agnelli and asked Tadao Ando to remodel it to finally open its doors in 2007 amid great international expectations.
In 2009 he opened a second location in the Punta della Dogana, the beautiful Grand Canal triangle next to the Baroque church Santa Maria della Salute. The run down building has now become a Museum of Contemporary Art. Two years of work and 29 million Euros have turned this 5,000 square meters into a beautiful museum which moves you with its spaces, art works and wonderful views. Pinault and Ando have been praised for the “spectacular architecture, bold and discreet, and its respect for the past “.
Ando’s choice to use gray concrete, silent and pictorial, gives way to two floors with views over the lagoon. The roof keeps the impressive original structure of wood beams, restored to perfection and strengthened with metal. The exterior of red brick walls restored the traditional way creates a neutral environment in which the parts designed for those spaces are in a perfect harmony. The architecture provides a first class aesthetic experience.
The millionaire’s contemporary art collection is one of the largest private collections in the world and is shown to the public in the best possible way. The two chosen buildings are joined by the water of the Grand Canal and gather the best works of contemporary art from video art to sculpture and even sensorial installations.
These two emblematic buildings house works by artists such as Gonzalez-Torres, Richard Prince, Murakami, Bruce Nauman, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Franz West, Rachel Whiteread and Fischli & Weiss. The stuffed horse by Maurizio Cattelan that astounds you when you just pass the glass bead curtain by Felix Gonzalez-Torres gives way to another monumental and exquisite installation with paintings by Sigmar Polke. On the top floor there is an installation by Chapman that represents Hell as well as portraits by Cindy Sherman and the monumental canvases of Rudolf Stingel. These are only a few of the stars of this unique exposition. Everything is amazing, exhilarating, in a continent as artistic and dramatic as it is respectful to the content.