Monday, July 15, 2013

A peep into collections of François Pinault Thea and Ethan Wagner

George Economou, François Pinault, Thea and Ethan Wagner, Bernardo Paz all have followed a unique pattern and vision when it comes to collecting art. What is it that keeps them going? We try and find out…

François Pinault quips: “There’s certainly a (subtle) form of equilibrium evident between the material life of business and the life of art. The passion for art is, as for believers, very religious. It tends to unite people, and its message is of common humanity.” To him art is religion, as he adds, ‘You don’t possess art; it possesses you.’ The luxury goods magnate is acclaimed for his cutting-edge collection of almost 2,000 artworks, many acquired directly from artists like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.

At his lavish, spacious Paris abode, he has negotiated a careful “arbitrage” between the ancien régime furnishings incidentally picked by his wife Maryvonne and new art. Born into a peasant family in a village in western Brittany, he was constantly mocked at school for his shabby clothes and rural accent. He saw a little bit of art only in churches, but seldom entered a museum until 30 when he introduced to art by a painter- friend. He did not look back ever after…

The French business tycoon is a majority shareholder of PPR, whose brands include Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Puma. A proud owner of a large portfolio of contemporary art, by over 80 top artists including Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso, he showcases part of it at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice and the Punta della Dogana. A good collector, François Pinault avers should have an eye, emotion and the capacity to feel something (different) in a work. It’s all about emotion in art.

On the other hand, Thea and Ethan Wagner, the art loving couple, peruses fairs, bids at auctions and checks into gallery openings and attends museum previews. Apart from offering advice to aspiring collectors, the two are busy enhancing their own collection of contemporary pieces by renowned American and European artists. It collection encompasses works from the 1950s to the present.

It’s also time for them perhaps to decide where it would ultimately go. Ms. Westreich Wagner mentions: “We have been together for 22 years and we have been collecting (art) for 22 years.” After several years of deliberation, they have promised to give over 800 works to two institutions - the New York-based Whitney Museum of American Art, and Paris-based Pompidou Center. Curators at both institutions are now planning a major showcase of works drawn from the collection.

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