Pinault Collection Director Emma Lavigne on How the Private Museum Sector is Transforming the Art World: “We Need to Overcome Boundaries”

Date:

Pinault Collection Director Emma Lavigne on How the Private Museum

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Sunday, October 16, 2022.
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The CEO of the Pinault Collection, Emma Lavigne, walked around her office at the Bourse de Commerce museum in Paris on one of the hottest days of this summer’s record-breaking heatwave and opened all the windows and doors to let warm air in.

  • She is in charge of François Pinault, a French billionaire, and his three museums, the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, Punta della Dogana, and the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

  • The latter will have a display at the Bourse de Commerce next spring.

  • Photo: Marlene Dumas, Filippo Rossi, and Marco Cappelletti at the Palazzo Grassi.

  • Lavigne acknowledged that, like most other collections, “women are underrepresented and under-exhibited,” even though the collection’s current programme is also very close to parity.

The CEO of the Pinault Collection, Emma Lavigne, walked around her office at the Bourse de Commerce museum in Paris on one of the hottest days of this summer’s record-breaking heatwave and opened all the windows and doors to let warm air in.

She added that she felt more connected to what was happening in the concentric, looping art galleries that make up the former Paris stock market because of the breeze circulating through the enormous structure, which was closed to the public that day and didn’t have air conditioning.

It was difficult to help but perceive Lavigne’s innate reorganisation of the workplace environment as a modest homage to her well-designed exhibits: multisensory displays where wind, temperature, sounds, and smells may all be important factors.

The current exhibition at the museum, “Une Seconde d’Eternité,” is the first season Lavigne has organised since she started working for the Collection a year ago. The exhibitions, according to Lavigne, “allow us to feel air in the exhibition space, to experience the sun’s movement through the sky dome,” referring to a Philippe Parreno and Tino Sehgal installation under the museum’s 19th-century copula that uses enormous fans and heliostats to redirect sunlight. The dome currently belongs to artist Anri Sala, whose show “Time No Longer” debuted last Friday, October 14.

Lavigne holds a position with the potential to be historically significant. She is in charge of François Pinault, a French billionaire, and his three museums, the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, Punta della Dogana, and the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. These three museums draw from Pinault’s collection of more than 10,000 works of art and his artist residency in Lens and other initiatives. Particularly the Bourse de Commerce is praised as a significant landmark for the thriving contemporary art scene in the French capital. With the opening of the Paris + by Art Basel art fair the following week, the city, which some in the French capital refer to as being amid a “rebirth,” is also set to mark an important milestone.

A Spiral Upward

Lavigne, whose career was developed in French public institutions, seemed keen to remain grounded despite being in the spotlight.

Speaking with the art historian born in 1968, when student uprisings paralysed Paris, one of her many endearing qualities comes to light. Lavigne, nurtured in the arts with a passion for music, was the product of cerebral parents. She claimed to be a member of a generation whose feminist mothers disapproved of Barbies “because that promoted stereotypes.” She made this claim in an interview with Artnet News. We didn’t want to worry about conforming to conventional gender stereotypes; instead, Lavigne added, “we just wanted to convey what we wanted to do or say.”

Lavigne also touched on some of the unjust expectations that still exist for women. She expressed her “bothersomeness” over the fact that the French media has previously written about her colourful clothing choices while her male peers have not received the same treatment.

Over the past few years, she has been moving up the ladder. With her passion for dance, music, and the visual arts combined, Lavigne has created a legacy of boundary-pushing curated exhibitions. She recently served as president of the Palais de Tokyo, where she co-curated a celebrated Anne Imhof exhibition last year. Before that, she held positions as curator at the Cité de la Musique, director of the Pompidou-Metz, and Director of the Centre Pompidou. In 2017, she managed the Lyon Biennale on a tight budget.

Lavigne’s curatorial career is still progressing at full speed, but her days working with a meagre public budget are over. Pinault established the luxury conglomerate Kering, whose brands include Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Alexander McQueen. He also owns Christie’s, an auction company.

In state-centric France, where worries that national institutions are losing out to wealthy private rivals still raise eyebrows, Lavigne’s transition from the public to the private sector—which has strong ties to the fashion industry—is a touchy subject. However, Lavigne claimed that “this is exactly the same job, whether I work in public institutions or a private one.” “We must get past certain obstacles. When visiting New York, visitors don’t question whether the Whitney, MoMA, or Met are public or private; instead, they go and enjoy.

Lavigne dug into the different poetic reflections the collection has sparked, taking out enormous catalogues and avidly reading through samples of works in the group, including those by artist Tacita Dean. The latter will have a display at the Bourse de Commerce next spring. She hopes to work with others on exhibits that will change how institutional architecture is designed. She described the museum as “a tough space.” “It’s not a white cube,” you say.

With a collection that is “a living substance,” the Bourse de Commerce is evolving into the location “to propose a new form of modern art experience,” Lavigne continued. Pinault wants the Bourse de Commerce to be the most giving institution, going “beyond any preconceived notions we would have of an exhibition space,” she continued.

The Bourse de Commerce is now hosting an engaging season of exhibitions that will be on view through January 2, 2023. These artists include Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Wolfgang Tillmans, Miriam Cahn, and Carrie Mae Weems, to mention a few. Avant l’orage (Before the storm), the upcoming season, “clearly addresses the topic of climate deregulation and the existence of seasons,” according to Lavigne. It premieres in early 2023. A significant exhibition of images by a Ukrainian artist from his home town of Kharkiv, “At Dusk,” debuted last Friday, October 14.

According to Lavigne, who believes the local art scene “understands” that the entry of private institutions “creates a remarkable synergy that complements existing public” ones, it is safe to say that the nation’s previous reluctance “to embrace private cultural initiatives” has changed given such a rich programme. Private museums are acknowledged as having contributed significantly to the current level of worldwide interest in France’s contemporary art market and scene.

However, there are still significant obstacles to France’s public museums. Lavigne cited the “complex” problems they face, including the exorbitant prices of some artistic mediums and the jobs associated with exhibitions, which are only expected to rise due to inflation and the oil crisis. While having huge displays is vital, fighting them is equally crucial as understanding how to complete projects on a budget. Additionally, she continued, collections like Pinault that are on display “need to foster developing creation, take chances, and bet on the future.” It’s not only a matter of the art market.

“Marlene Dumas: Open-End” installation view, Palazzo Grassi, 2022. Alien (2017), Pinault Collection; Spring (2017), private collection, courtesy of David Zwirner; and Amazon (2016), private collection, Switzerland, are shown in the order of the images from left to right. Photo: Marlene Dumas, Filippo Rossi, and Marco Cappelletti at the Palazzo Grassi.

There is a proverb that goes, “For women to count, you must count women. In other words, for [women] to be visible, we need to hire women,” said Lavigne, who said that the museum staff at the Bourse de Commerce was almost evenly split between men and women; in some sections, she is hiring males because there are so few. Lavigne acknowledged that, like most other collections, “women are underrepresented and under-exhibited,” even though the collection’s current programme is also very close to parity.

Regarding the collection’s ethnic diversity, Lavigne said she was astounded when she first saw it and learned that Pinault had strong connections with eminent Black American artists like Kerry James Marshall and David Hammons, some of whose works had entered his collection more than three decades earlier. His “very open vision on the issues of gender and race” was praised by her.

The 86-year-old “did not grow up in an environment where parents took their children to a concert, or a museum,” Lavigne added, but this occurred. “Art arrived later and transformed his life. It altered the way he perceived the world.

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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