Model of the Bourse de Commerce showing the cylinder conceived by Tadao Ando and nestled within the atrium.
Since 2006, François Pinault has developed his ambitious project along three main strategies. On the one hand, a network of museums located in Venice: Palazzo Grassi, to which an auditorium, the Teatrino, was added in 2013, and the Punta della Dogana, all designed and renovated by Tadao Ando. It has also organized a series of exhibitions in partnership with institutions in France and internationally, through which the works in the collection have been seen in new contexts, by audiences who may not have the opportunity to travel to Venice. And, finally, it has developed several initiatives whose goal is to encourage and support the creation of contemporary art and the study of art history, such as its artist-residency program in Lens or the annual Pierre Daix Prize.
With the addition of the Bourse de Commerce, in Paris, the Pinault Collection is committing itself to an ambitious new scale. It is adding to its network of permanent exhibition sites, while committing itself to preserving the individual identity of each. The Bourse de Commerce will occupy a central role in this original organization, collaborating closely with Palazzo Grassi, the Teatrino, and the Punta della Dogana.
At the Bourse de Commerce, we will present thematic hangings of works in the Pinault Collection, monographic exhibitions devoted to major artists, commissions, cartes blanches, and in-situ installations. A schedule of exhibitions of varying lengths will be organized such that visitors will have countless opportunities to discover diverse works throughout the year, as they return to the museum, and to attend cultural and educational programs in spaces specifically designed for that purpose.
As much space as possible will be used to welcome visitors and accommodate the audience’s needs; offices, storage spaces, and utility areas will be small or located off-site.
The Bourse de Commerce will include 3,000 square meters of modular exhibition space, divided into rooms from 100 to 600 square meters or used as a single whole, to welcome large-scale projects. The volumes, which can range in size from intimate to monumental, will be conceived and adapted such that they can most fittingly present works in various scales and different media, from photography to installations, and including painting, sculpture, and video.
Along with gallery space, the Bourse de Commerce will also feature an auditorium with 300 seats, an ideal setting for screenings, lectures, conferences, and concerts, along with a vast foyer and a black-box theater for video installations and experimental performances.
Every detail will be carefully thought out, paying close attention to pragmatically approaching the constraints that arise from adapting an historic monument to a new function, including modulating temperature and lighting (both natural and artificial) and outfitting the building to accommodate the transport and installation of works (with loading docks, access ramps, and freight elevators). We will combine our efforts to ensure that visitors encounter art in a context that is informative, agreeable, and enriching.
The overarching aim of this architectural and cultural project is to create the conditions for a thoughtful discussion with the works and the audience, with culture and history.
Martin Bethenod, directeur général délégué
The structuring element of the plans to adapt the Bourse de Commerce into a museum is conceived as an echo to the building’s fundamental organizing principle: its circularity. Tadao Ando’s intervention within the building will dialogue with its carefully restored historic elements. We see this decision as the natural consequence of the approach Ando has consistently adopted when working within existing buildings. Here, we must contend with the history of the building and that of Paris, capital of the nineteenth century.
A concrete cylinder, its walls pierced with four identical openings and surmounted by an oculus that allows natural light to filter in, will be inserted into the building’s core. The center of the building was once used to store wheat, then was the active center of the stock market, directly open onto the recently built Paris streets that converged there; now, it will be isolated, becoming the building’s unified, abstract, and fixed core, and an ideal space in which to experience art. The main components of the architecture (its circular form, its dome, the controlled presence of light) will become the actors in a scenography intended to remove visitors from their daily lives, to allow them to focus on what’s before their eyes, on the here and now.
The goal of the conversion of the Bourse de Commerce into a museum is to create the ideal conditions for the visitor to experience art. It will be flexible and adaptable, to best accommodate the range of different media used by contemporary artists today. Our intervention in the building relies on emphasizing its most striking attributes and the remarkable features of the site while writing a new chapter in its history. The concrete and symbolic nods to its past, such as the Medici column, the double-spiral staircases, or its rotunda, emphasize the role of the past as the foundation of contemporary creation.
Because of the circularity of the site, the ways of exploring the building are virtually inexhaustible. It serves as a metaphor for the way in which history can be reinterpreted and rediscovered according to new logics. Ando has often, throughout his career, relied on circularity as a structuring principle; it recurs in his work, almost as his personal signature.
These unique conditions combine to make this space the site of an encounter between the rich past, embodied by this centuries-old building, and the modern-day desire to present a unique collection to the public, all in the hands of the renowned Tadao Ando.
Like Ando, Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières, the building’s original architect, believed in the suggestive power of forms on human emotions. His treatise The Genius of Architecture; or, the Analogy of that Art with our Sensations opened with the provocative formula, “It is not enough to please the eyes, you must touch the soul.” In 1977, Ando similarly described architecture as “a fundamentally emotive space.”
The volumes of the central rotunda, bathed in the changing light, will be the silent witnesses to a perpetual movement of exchange and originality.
In approaching the renovation of the Bourse de Commerce, the architects’ common aim is to infuse the different historic strata of the building with a new life, by adding, at the core of the building, a concrete
cylinder that disrupts the existing volumes of the space and creates a new means of circulating through the building.
This cylinder, linking two walls and two eras, will create a path through the ground floor that will become a passageway to the floors above, leading the visitor in a centrifugal movement to each of the spaces open to the public. A walkway, curled around this central cylinder along the building’s internal façade, will offer new vantage points from which to view this historic building. The path will also lead to the new auditorium, located underground
beneath the foundations of the cylinder. Its stage will be aligned with this circle, in a subtle reminder of the centrality that forms the core of the building.
The newly created exhibition spaces will be organized around the central core of the building (exhibition 01), in a strategy aimed at increasing the number of ways in which the building can be visited. Visitors will enter into a vast reception area located on the ground floor, then continue to a double-height exhibition room (exhibition 02). On the first floor, a small exhibition space will be inserted between the ancient walls (exhibition 03). As they continue up the walkway, visitors will be able to access the second floor from two points (exhibition 04, 05, 06). On the third floor, the visit ends on a stunning panorama— of the city to one side, and of the interior of the building, its skylight, and frescos on the other.
Visitors will then choose between retracing their steps back to the lobby or using the double-spiral staircase, a vestige of the building’s past as the former Halle au Blé, to return directly to the ground floor.
Lucie Niney et Thibault Marca, NeM Architectes
Rendering of the concrete cylinder, viewed from the center of the atrium.
The story of the Bourse de Commerce begins in the sixteenth century (the only remaining vestige of which is, today, the Medici column). The structure of the building then evolved to accommodate the different uses of
the space and the transformations of the Halles area in which it is located. Its history evolves in parallel with that of the French capital.
As the Halles evolved, so did the Bourse de Commerce.In the eighteenth century, the building was located at the heart of one of Paris’s main housing districts; architect Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières’s Halle au Blé
incorporated the Medici column. With the start of construction on Baltard’s Halles in 1852, the Medici column was listed as a national historic monument (classified as such in 1862, along with Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Sainte Chapelle). It then became the Bourse de Commerce in 1889, converted to this use by Henri Blondel, located opposite the Halles designed by Baltard on the new Rue du Louvre, the central axis of Baron Haussmann’s modern Paris. With the dramatic demolition of Baltard’s Halles, which initiated a reassessment of the value and merits of nineteenth-century architecture, the totality of the Bourse de Commerce became a landmarked historic monument in 1975. In the 1980s, a renewed attention to France’s heritage and its conservation led to the acknowledgment of the exceptional merits of Bélanger’s 1812 dome, then classified as a French Historic Monument. Despite the protections that follow from this designation, works undergone during the 1970s led to the erosion of certain historic features of the building, with the addition of a stairwell in the rotunda, the replacement of some of the original external woodwork, and the concealment of the décor.
The conversion of the Bourse de Commerce into a museum involves two main aspects: the restoration of the site to its condition of 1889 and an adaptation to its modern use. The entirety of the Bourse will be renovated, from the external and internal façades to the roof and the frescoes of the cupola, with the addition of technical features to bring electricity and air-conditioning to the building. The cast-iron structure of the cupola will
be reinstated, and the installation of a modern glass roof will facilitate the conservation of painted decors and the works on display. An exhaustive archival research project allowed us to identify the remaining elements from its
eighteenth-century state and the missing elements from the nineteenth. Thanks to the documents, Blondel’s external carpentry, the sundial, and the fountain of the Medici column will be returned to their original condition, as well as the ornaments of the dome, which had long been destroyed.
The architectural significance of the building, and the radical nature of Tadao Ando’s approach to its renovation and adaptation into a museum, required that the plans be presented to the National Commission on Historic Monuments on February 6, 2017; they were unanimously approved. The project was also presented the Commission du Vieux Paris on February 22, 2017, who endorsed the plans.
The Bourse de Commerce has changed and evolved throughout its history, always remaining faithful to its original circular shape, surmounted by a unique dome. The project of the Pinault Collection–Paris constitutes a new chapter in this story, adding a contemporary dimension in dialogue with its historic past.
Pierre-Antoine Gatier, architecte en chef des Monuments historiques
Stepping inside the Bourse du Commerce, visitors immediately look up to the dome, towering forty meters above their heads. There, they discover the immense painting that lines it, created in 1889, spanning a full 360 degrees. This, it reminds you, is a Bourse de Commerce: this famous panorama depicts trade in the late nineteenth century, across the five continents.
Its restoration took place from January to July 2018 under the supervision of Alix Laveau, conservator of the Direction des Musées de France. The process disclosed some secrets behind the technique of marouflage, affixing canvas to walls with adhesive, and revealed the personality of each of the five artists commissioned to create this grand panorama.
Alix Laveau describes her experience working on this exceptional project, in conversation with Guillaume Picon.
How did you feel the first time you saw the décor lining the top of the Bourse de Commerce?
I discovered the Bourse de Commerce before renovations began, when it was completely empty. I was impressed by the scale of the décor: 140 meters long by 10 meters high, or 1,400 square meters of canvas! It seemed endless. The start of the construction work didn’t lessen that emotional reaction. A scaffolding was built that allowed me to climb twenty meters high, so that I was only a few inches away from the paintings. It was overwhelming, intoxicating. But fortunately, even such an immense project returned to the human scale once I began the work itself, protected by tarps from the empty space below.
What do the frescoes depict?
They deal with the progression of modernity in France through commerce with countries throughout the world. In an article about the inauguration of the Bourse de Commerce, the newspaper Le Temps, in its issue dated November 21, 1889, calls this décor a “panorama of commerce.” 1889 was also the year of the Exposition Universelle, during which the two monuments presented by France were the Eiffel Tower and the Bourse de Commerce. France wanted to present itself in “its finest attire,” and this décor is one of the its best!
You just gave a contemporary opinion of the Bourse de Commerce at its inauguration. How was this panorama perceived at the time?
Public opinion, as recorded in the press, seemed rather divided. A few critics had so reservations, others were full of praise. For instance, historian Charles Bivort, in a work devoted to the building’s history published in 1889, wrote that, “All these paintings are in perfect harmony with the sky above and have a stunning effect. The elevation of the cupola is such that the people depicted had to be rendered at a huge size in order to be visible: their heads, in the foreground, are more than half a meter wide.”
A recurrent critique had to do with the lack of coherence in the overall composition. For example, in Soleil, on September 24, 1889: “The paintings that span the first area of the cupola are disparate: no unity, no harmony. This isn’t to say that they are in the wrong place: the cupola certainly needed a décor. What I’m saying is that it shouldn’t have been this one.”
Who is the author of the “panorama of commerce”?
The panorama is the work of not one but five artists—which explains the lack of coherence mentioned in some newspaper articles. Four of them deal with commerce in a given part of the world: Évariste-Vital Luminais was assigned America; Désiré-François Laugée, Russia and the North; Georges-Victor Clairin, Asia and Africa; and finally Hippolyte Lucas, Europe. In between those scenes, Alexis Mazerolle, who supervised the project, added allegories of the continents and regions depicted by the individual artists, in each of the four cardinal directions: Europe is represented by the arts and architecture; Africa by a lion and the hunt; Asia and the Orient by a hookah and elephants; and the North by a polar bear. This large, detailed composition invites viewers to travel across the world.
Today those painters are little known, or not at all. How were they considered by the art world toward the end of the nineteenth century?
Paris changed and became a modern city under Napoleon III. New infrastructure and monuments were built, many of which were decorated. Artistic production soared. Twentieth-century critics have generally been scornful of the decorative paintings created during the nineteenth century, even when those are of a high caliber. And yet, visitors today are amazed when they discover the décor painted by Isidore Pils for the monumental staircase of the Opéra Garnier—clearly this type of painting is still awe-inspiring!
The artists who worked on the dome of the Bourse de Commerce were known at the time, even renowned. Georges Clairin trained at the atelier of François Édouard Picot. His portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, in a spontaneous style, was widely applauded when it was first shown in the 1876 Salon; it is now on display at the Petit Palais. Clairin was part of a group of “Orientalist” painters—he traveled to Egypt with the composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Through his connections to many powerful people, he was chosen to participate in the decoration of several public monuments, such as the staircase and foyer of the Opéra Garnier, along with Isidore Pils, and the ceilings of the Hôtel de Ville and the Sorbonne. After Mazerolle passed away in May 1889, Clairin supervised the completion of the work on the Bourse de Commerce.
Alexis Joseph Mazerolle, the backbone of the team, was also the most academic. He created decors for many important theaters, including the Opéra in Paris. He had an international clientele, which took him to Naples and New York.
Like Clairin, Désiré Laugée studied under François Édouard Picot; he was also a poet, and counted Victor Hugo among his friends. He was interested in depicting the countryside, which aligned him with naturalism. Like his colleagues working on the dome, Laugée created some important decors: at the Palais du Luxembourg, the Chapelle Saint-Denis of the Église de la Trinité, the Église Saint-Clotilde, and the Hôtel Continental—which was built by Henri Blondel, the architect of the Bourse de Commerce.
Évariste-Vital Luminais is considered a history painter, and as such, an academic artist. His depictions of the Gauls and of the medieval ages are part of a new iconography of the country’s history, disseminated in the textbooks of the Third Republic.
And finally, Hyppolite Lucas. A student of Luminais, he was the youngest member of the group. He painted large decors for the Casino of Monte Carlo, the convention center and oceanographic museum of Monaco, and the ceilings of the Préfecture du Rhône.
How did Mazerolle, Luminais, and the others proceed with the work?
Archival material pertaining to the organization of the work site and the relationships among the artists is limited. Some sketches by Lucas and Luminais are preserved in the collections of the Petit Palais and the Musée d’Orsay. According to these preliminary efforts, it seems that the artists used a grid to scale up their drawings. Their works were produced in the studio, then finished on site.
The artists created their paintings on several lengths of linen or hemp canvas. These were then pasted together, recut, and incised when they were affixed to the walls by the artists, most likely with the assistance of a specialized team. The canvases were summarily joined together on site, and certain parts were altered by their creators, each following their individual inclinations.
Has the panorama been restored before now?
A first time in 1995, and a second time, following a fire, from 2010 to 2013, but only in certain areas.
What conditions were the canvases in before you intervened?
They had gotten dirty over time, developing a dull, off-white film layer that altered the colors of the décor. Mold, altering the chromatic range of the paintings, affected the relationships between the shaded areas and those in the light, like a photo negative. The paint layer, on the entirety of the canvas, had become very fragile; the binder in the paint had lost its adhering power. Unfortunately, this deterioration had led to the creation of open ones, with significant losses of paint on the surface layer of the canvas. These small gaps showed up as very visible stains. On the other hand, places in which the canvas had become unglued were rare. Previous touch-ups and more large-scale restorations, including the one done in 1995, had completely degraded. The paint used at the time had been transformed by the intense ultraviolet lighting and the temperatures of the air-conditioned Bourse over the past twenty years.
Finally, an important anomaly is still very difficult to correct. It consists of the “ghosts” of the metal frame of the cupola. They were very visible before the 1995 restoration, even beneath a layer of black soot; they were still very visible when the current restoration began. These stains are produced by dust, attracted by the magnetic pull of the metal structure. Unfortunately, once you climb up the scaffolding and are looking at the paintings up close, these ghosts become almost invisible. One of the more challenging tasks we undertook was to create a map of these ghosts, through photographs, so that we would be able to locate and tackle them.
What constraints did you have to keep in mind as you worked?
There were two important considerations: the allocated budget, and the time-frame within which to complete the work. It was a considerable challenge: given the information we had at hand, and the exceptional scale of the panorama, we typically would have needed more time and more important resources. Plus, there was the additional problem of lead pollution from the paint used in the late nineteenth century; and because the scaffolding was very narrow, it was impossible to take a step back and have a more global view of the composition. The restoration of the panorama was just one aspect of the larger restoration of the entire building by Bouygues. The noise of the machines, the dust of the construction work, the cold, the heat, etc.—all these factors made our work more difficult.
What organizational system did you set in place?
We divided the work into three phases: a cleaning, followed by an esthetic intervention, then a final harmonization of the whole. To undertake these works, I asked a firm to conduct a preliminary study of the site, then recruited a team of twenty-four restorers. To make speedy and consistent progress, I divided them into six work groups of four people each; each group had a team leader with whom I was always in touch. The entire team consisted of people with whom I’d worked before. We share the same philosophy of restoration and follow the same code of ethics. Each group worked on a specific area I’d assigned them, following strict deadlines—and meeting every one of them. It was important for me to keep in mind the big picture, so that I wouldn’t get lost in the details of the décor but make sure our work, and the final result, was consistent. The firm Studiolo created a map based on the observations made by the team of restorers, myself included, from up on the scaffolding. Details pertaining to the “ideal” condition of the panorama, to the previous restoration, and to this current one, were meticulously recorded. This technical document allowed us to proceed quickly and effectively.
What were some of the new discoveries you made during the work?
The careful observations that I mentioned allowed us to understand more precisely the steps in the creation of this gigantic décor. The first, relatively finished compositions were painted in the studio on industrially produced, pre-prepared canvases, with white underpainting. At that stage, the skies had not yet been painted in completely and remained rather fluid, except for the sky above the Great North scene. The upper portions of the cupola were the first to be lined with canvases depicting the sky, affixed to the walls with white lead. These canvases typically measure five by four meters. The first piece is attached to the center of the walls; the next pieces go alongside it, overlapping slightly. The cuts are done by hand, more or less smoothly. The pieces depicting human figures went up next. Their height varies from four to five meters. They were cut out, following the outlines of the figures; then adjusted, layered, and recut as needed. Numerous cuts were made to readjust the pieces of canvas and make sure they had adhered fully. Which is why we suspect experts in this technique, called “marouflage,” were involved. Mazerolle’s canvases were also made in the studio, on a single canvas. They were very precisely cut out, following the outline of every detail of the composition, such as toes and leaves. These canvases are square, six meters to a side, each square functioning as a joint between the two continents to either side. Smaller adjustments were made to fill in the gaps.
The entire composition was then reworked on site, once the marouflage was completed, by the artists who had a final opportunity to integrate the canvases all together or to complete the parts of the canvas left unfinished.
Three months after completion of the restoration, how do you feel about the Panorama du Commerce?
This restoration, a crucial component of Tadao Ando’s project for the Pinault Collection, makes it possible to see these paintings as they have never been possible before. From the walkway created at the top of Ando’s central cylinder, visitors will be closer to the Panorama than their nineteenth-century forerunners had been. This new vision was unprecedented for many of us. The Panorama du Commerce counts itself among the many works in François Pinault’s collection: our goal for this restoration was exactly that.
To close, an amusing movie reference: in Marco Ferreri’s Don’t Touch the White Woman! (1974), the character played by Philippe Noiret looks up at the dome of the Bourse de Commerce and says: “Beautiful fresco, isn’t it? It’s our Sistine Chapel!” I couldn’t think of a better compliment.
Guillaume Picon, historian
Alix Laveau, conservator of the Direction des Musées de France
Michel and Sébastien Bras © Bras
François Pinault has decided to entrust the Bourse de Commerce’s restaurant, which will be located at the top of the building, to renowned father-and-son team Michel and Sébastien Bras – the next step in the impressive culinary journey, which has taken them from their native Aubras region to Japan, and now to Paris.
Michel Bras’s story begins in the En countryside region of Aubrac. The Bras were cooks for generations—while his father was a blacksmith, his mother, a housewife, was constrained, for pecuniary reasons, to take a position as a full-time cook. As a child, Michel spent his youth in a furnace—of the forge, the oven, the stove. His character was formed during long hours of physical labor, fed by the happiness that comes from gathering loved ones around a dinner table. Even as an innocent child, he was able to perceive the magic of cooking, which he would one day make his own.
Michel grew up on this elevated plateau, this rocky climb, whipped by cold winds, in the Alto Braco region, a territory that straddles three départements—Cantal, Lozère, and Aveyron. The young boy learned to recognize the different wild herbs and flowers that grow there. He developed a strong constitution of flesh, silence, sky, and earth.
We might encounter the boy running through the green fields, pausing to gather queens of the-meadow, sorrel, picolingo stinging his tongue — later, in Vietnam, he would discover its Asian counterpart, rau-raum, coriander with a sharp flavor. He would gather fresh garlic, fresh goosefoots, following his instincts. He didn’t know it at the time, but he would eventually bring all those native herbs and plants into his kitchen and use them to flavor his dishes. The Aubrac region, with its powerful alchemy, determined his fate: he would become a cook.
Bras uses the myriad plants and flowers of the region in his cooking: his poetic gastronomy is inspired by the “natural fortress” in which he grew up, “this desert, in which the sky, minerals, vegetables, everything brings us back to basics.” Twenty-five years ago, with his wife Gi, he took over the premises of Le Délaissé (or the abandoned, the forsaken), so called because no one was interested in farming the land. Together, Bras would set it on a new path and transform its past.
Daringly Bras wanted to convey a contemplative vision of l’Aubrac, to stay as close as possible to nature. The architecture and design of his restaurant reflects this intention: a glass bubble, perched on the edge of a meadow, like a dewdrop. A gurgling stream merrily crosses their property. Bras has brought a new energy to Le Suquet, once abandoned. Visitors come from near and far to eat there. It was there that Bras invented le Gargouillou, a unique dish that has become renowned across the world.
Eventually his son Sébastien joined him, along with his wife Véronique, who together with Gi maintain harmony and tranquility. Father and son share an attachment to the land, the fields, rivers, and forests; they have in common a childhood spent on these lands, a keen awareness of the changing seasons. They traveled together, feeding their imagination both near and far. One day, they were invited to open a restaurant on the island of Hokkaido. Like in Lagardelle, where they grow silver sorrel, mint geranium, valerian, and fennel—plants gathered across the world—they would build a garden, an entire ecosystem, in Japan. The inspiration of these two sons of the Aubrac region knows no frontiers. While one feels a connection with the Fula people of South Africa, the other makes his own miso, using lentils from the Planèze region. Michel and Sébastien are open to all sources of inspiration.
They were invited to open a restaurant in Rodez, alongside the work of painter Pierre Soulages; in the hall of the musée Soulages, you can now find the Café Bras. The architecture of the building perfectly suits both Soulages’s outrenoir works and their style of cuisine: they have in common a refinement and purity of lines. Art is a universal language that adopts many different guises; gastronomy, like painting—or photography, Michel’s preferred hobby—is a metaphor. It gives meaning to the world. And it constantly reinvents and renews itself, incorporates new sources of inspiration. Never concerned with fashion, always true to itself. Such is, I believe, their simple truth!
Corinne Pradier, writer
The team of the Collection Pinault–Paris will be advised by a committee of experts with a two-pronged goal: studying the history of the Bourse de Commerce complex throughout the ages, and examining in depth every means of renovating the landmarked elements of the building.
Part of this committee will supervise the installation of pressurized-air systems in the basement of the Bourse de Commerce, a remnant of an ancient power station installed by the Compagnie Victor Popp in the late nineteenth-century, which for several decades provided public electricity to the area.
general conservator of national heritage, regional conservator of national heritage
general conservator of national heritage
chief architect of historic monuments, general inspector of national heritage
general conservator and inspector of national heritage
Regional panel on historic monuments:
research engineer, expert in painting
research engineer, expert in the use of metals
research engineer, expert in the use of stone
director of research at the école Pratique des Hautes études (EPHE), historic and philological sciences section
head of collections at the Musée des Arts et Métiers
conservator of sculpture and architecture at the Musée National de la Renaissance, Château d’écouen
general conservator of heritage, director of the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris
general director of heritage at the Ministère de la Culture
Experts advisors to the architects:
architect-engineer at Unanime
Benoît Stehelin, Bernard Vaudeville, Jean-François Nicolas