Contemporary art: why the opening of the Pinault Collection in Paris is problematic
The opening of the Pinault Collection in the Bourse de Commerce building, scheduled for spring 2021, will allow French billionaire François Pinault to exhibit his collections in France and compete with the Louis Vuitton Foundation. A short walk from the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou, this new museum seems to be good news for lovers of contemporary art.However, it appears that François Pinault is using this promotional space to enrich his own luxury brands and the popularity of his artists, with the financial support of the State. It is partly thanks to the Aillagon law on patronage that a new artketing practice is emerging, one that is detrimental to contemporary art and impoverishes the State’s finances.
The Bourse de commerce and the Pinault Collection
French billionaires invest in contemporary art for reasons that are not strictly financial. Indeed, economists have calculated the rate of return on a work of art considered as a financial asset: it turns out that works of art are less profitable than other assets, barely 3.5%. There is, however, an undeniable tax advantage that is allowed by the law on patronage, known as the Aillagon law of 2003.In exchange for an investment in culture, the State undertakes to reduce the tax on 60% of the donation, so the Louis Vuitton Foundation, although it cost LVMH 780 million euros, gave rise to a tax reduction of 518.2 million euros .In short, it cost only 261 million to LVMH, which is the world leader in luxury goods and which benefited from what is known as a “windfall effect” .
As for the Paris Stock Exchange, it then belonged to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), which sold it for 86 million euros to the City of Paris. The City Council then decided to “lend” the site for a period of 50 years to the Pinault Collection in exchange for taking charge of the site’s renovation work, which amounted to 120 million euros.It should be noted that François Pinault owns two museums in Venice: Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, as well as the Teatrino, a small amphitheatre transformed into an auditorium to host conferences.
What would François Pinault gain by operating a site for 50 years in order to earn only about ten million euros per year, which would only pay back the work after 10 years? In fact, it must be understood that the Collection does not function as a museum but rather as a gallery. Its missions are first of all to exhibit and to sell, unlike the museum which must preserve. If the museum is invested with a mission of general interest, the Pinault Collections have a mercantile profile. Let’s look at all this in more detail.