Meanwhile, back in France
France2 news had several interesting items last evening:
Item 1: Billionaire François Pinault, one of the leading European art collectors (who just last Wednesday was Absolved Of Personal Involvement In Fraud Case involving Credit Lyonnais of France and Executive Life of California, even when Pinault’s company Artemis SA was found guilty), pulled the plug on the $275 million Ile Seguin project.
Ile Seguin (pronounced “eel seh-GAN”) is located at Boulogne-Billancourt, three miles downstream from the Eiffel Tower, and the entire island on the Seine River is the abandoned site of a large Renault factory that closed several years ago, causing unemployment in the area.
Pinault – who owns Gucci, Christie’s auction house and the FNAC media chain – began buying modern art more than 30 years ago.
Today he owns one of the five or six most important private collections in the world.
Five years ago he first expressed the desire to make the collection available to the public.
He chose a disused Renault factory on the Ile Seguin three miles downstream from the Eiffel Tower and commissioned the Japanese architect Tadao Ando to design a £102m (150 million euro) gallery in the form of a ship’s prow.
But in an article this week entitled “I give up” in Le Monde newspaper, Pinault said the authorities in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt had failed to respond with the necessary enthusiasm.
The gallery was to be part of a much larger urban development scheme, but none of the surrounding residential and commercial areas has yet been approved for construction and the completion date – originally set for this year – was slipping into the next decade.
This was supposed to become a museum to rival the Bilbao Guggenheim.
I have the distinct impression that the Boulogne-Billancourt bureaucrats assumed that the Pinault project was “a done deal”(*) and that Pinault wouldn’t dare locate the collection anywhere but in France.
Clearly, they were wrong.
Pinault was so exasperated over the delays and mounting expenses — he had spent $25 million on feasability studies alone — that on May 10 he published an article in Le Monde titled “I give up!”
The mayor of Ile Seguin is hoppin’ mad; the mayor of Venice is thrilled. Pinault purchased the magnificent 18th century Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal in Venice last month for €29 million, and that’s where the collection — which features the world’s most important collection of post-WWII Italian art — is headed.
Item 2: Germany went ahead on ratifying the EU Constitution, without bothering with a referendum. Demonstrators gathered at the last moment in front of the Bundestag, but the Constitution was approved, 569 votes to 23.
Item 3: While the French Assembly discussed the EU Constitution and the upcoming referendum, a visitor stripped, jumped down to the floor of the assembly, and mooned the parliamentarians with the word “NON” painted on his backside.
Item 4: Related to all this, Nicolas Sarkozy hosted a UMP rally for 4,500 party enthusiasts, and took the opportunity to say “Ours is not the best social model”, which Le Monde interprets as a veiled criticism of Jaques Chirac. Hardly surprising, since Sarco went on to say “A yes vote doesn’t exempt France from taking the route of modernization”.
(*) Note to France: Don’t assume that the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is a done deal
While on the subject of art, Erik of ¡No Pasarán! wants to know Where Are the Enraged Botero’s Paintings on Saddam’s Crimes, China’s Prison System, Russia’s Gulag?…