Eight years ago, stymied in his plans to open his own art museum on the banks of the Seine, François Pinault, the head of the luxury conglomerate Kering and a well-known collector, recruited the Japanese architect Tadao Ando to open the Punta della Dogana in Venice. Now, Pinault has set his sights on Paris again: This week, Pinault announced plans to turn the Bourse, the city’s historic stock exchange, into a modern art museum.
According to current plans for the renovation, Ando is back onboard as well, this time to design a massive cylinder to occupy the center of the round, domed building. It’s an ambitious renovation of a historic 19th-century structure—a project so major, Ando reportedly declared, that it could have the power to “blast away the political malaise of the moment and soothe the wounds of Brexit,” according to the Guardian.
“These are tumultuous times in Europe—the recurring terrorist incidents and the UK withdrawal from the EU have fuelled anxiety over what the future holds, and countries and people alike seem unsure of their own identities,” Ando told the audience at the project’s unveiling Monday, adding that art and architecture could “renew hope in the future.”
On a more local scale, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo co-signed the project, calling it an “immense gift” during Monday’s announcement. Like New York, Paris has a conflicted relationship with its own landmarks—just as Penn Station (which was actually inspired by Paris’s Gare d’Orsay, now the Musée d’Orsay) was razed to make way for the station New Yorkers know today, Paris also tore down and rebuilt the Les Halles market. Its most recent incarnation, in fact, a pricey and controversial project, abuts the Bourse. As the Guardian points out, Pinault’s plan, then, could be seen as an antidote, an attempt to preserve and bring new life to a historic site.
Pinault—whose Kering owns Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Gucci, and more—might be one of the most powerful players in the art world, but so too is Bernard Arnault, the owner of rival luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. In 2006, LVMH unveiled plans for the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the Frank Gehry-designed art space in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne. Arnault bankrolled the project to house his own extensive art collection, and since it opened in 2014, the building has, in addition to putting on a number of well-received art exhibitions, also been the site of Louis Vuitton shows under Nicolas Ghesquière’s creative direction and of the LVMH Prize, now entering its fifth year.
So now it looks like Paris will have two new contemporary art museums, designed by two starchitects, and owned by two men who run the two most powerful luxury fashion conglomerates there is. (And, in Salma Hayek and Natalia Vodianova, two extremely chic daughters-in-law.) What a world.
Charlize Theron still feels bad about the time she punched Teri Hatcher in the face: