Home Magazine Francois Pinault - self made businessman and art collector

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Pinault Fondation of Palazzo Grassi in Venice, but also the 80th birthday of its founder Francois Pinault, a big chapter in the story of a self made business tycoon and his passion for art.

Francois Pinault came from very humble circumstances and he dropped out of high school to help his father with their small timber business. This was the start of what would turn out to be a truly successful business career. The Pinault family is on the Forbes list of billionaires with a current wealth of $12.9 billions as of April 2016. He moved on from the timber business and the Pinault company that Francois founded is today know as Kering, the French luxury good holding company with brand names like Alexander McQueenBalenciagaBrioniGucciPumaVolcomSaint Laurent Paris in their portfolio.


Francois Pinault


The first time Pinault stepped into a museum to really admire art was not until his adulthood. But art moved something in Pinault that he has not been able to let go since, often calling art the love of his life he managed to immersed himself in the art world as successfully as he had done in the business world. The painting that distinguished Pinault as a true art lover and collector was Piet Mondrian’s Tableau Losangique II. A painting that he bought at a Christie’s sale in 1990 for $8.8 million and his at the time most expensive art purchase. And he went on to further showcase his true passion for art by acquiring the historical auction house Christie’s in 1998. One evening back in 2003, after several decades of constructing his business empire, Pinault handed over the company reigns to his son Francois-Henri. He was now able to dedicate more of his focus on the love of his life, art.

Pinault is today considered one of the most powerful people in the art world and possibly, the most powerful collector. Obviously his fortune has granted him the privilege of acquiring important pieces, but his success is also thanks to the fact that he still remains so curious and eager to learn all about art and the art world. Pinault did not only enjoy to acquire finished pieces of art but also to commission them, in order to observe the process of their making and so befriending the artists.


Palazzo Grassi Foundation


In 2000, Pinault announced his grand plans to open a contemporary-art museum on the Île Seguin, outside Paris. But after five years and $24 million invested Pinault grew weary of the French bureaucracy hindering and complicating his plans for the museum and finally he abandoned the project. But he still had a great collection that was at the moment to a large extent just stored away in warehouses, so he continued down south to Italy where he eventually found a home at the Palazzo Grassi for the collection to be displayed. But not even the Palazzo Grassi was big enough for Pinault’s collection so he also bought the larger space Punta della Dogana, the Venetian customhouse, after winning a bidding war against the Guggenheim Foundation.

The Palazzo Grassi is currently showing an large retrospective of Sigmar Polke’s work, and the Punta della Dogana is hosting the show “Accrochage” – an exhibition of eighty never before shown works from the collection that underlines the artist’s search and creative process, focusing on how rather than why these works were created. 


Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the artworld.