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Collecting art is way for entrepreneur to see future: Pinault

SongEun ArtSpace showcases 22 contemporary artworks from François Pinault collection

In considering artworks for his extensive collection, François Pinault, a noted art collector, listens to himself more than anything else.

“Rather than listening to critics’ opinions, I focus on artworks that give me passion and make my heart beat,” said Pinault, at a press conference at SongEun ArtSpace in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul on Friday.

Pinault is the head of the French multinational holding company PPR which owns the Gucci Group, the second biggest luxury group in the world with established brands like Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and more. Pinault is also owner of the French vineyard Chateau-La Tour, the news magazine Le Point and the Christie’s auction house. 
François Pinault (right) poses with Jeff Koons on Friday, next to Koons’ sculpture “Bourgeois Bust ― Jeff and Ilona,” at SongEun ArtSpace in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
François Pinault (right) poses with Jeff Koons on Friday, next to Koons’ sculpture “Bourgeois Bust ― Jeff and Ilona,” at SongEun ArtSpace in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

The business mogul has a collection of nearly 3,000 artworks, which are mostly displayed in two of his museums ― Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana ― in Venice, Italy. Among his impressive art collection, Pinault brought 22 to Seoul to introduce to the Korean public.

“Koreans are very interested in contemporary art and hoping to expand boundaries, so I selected world famous artists’ works this time to introduce what is happening in the world in terms of contemporary art. Next time, I will select works by less famous yet still important artists to give Korean viewers a surprise,” said Pinault.

Exhibits include paintings, sculptures, installation works and photos by four renowned contemporary artists ― Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman and Takashi Murakami. The show offers a rare chance to see Hirst’s formaldehyde solution installations and Murakami’s sculptures of exaggerated sexuality.

The show is titled “Agony and Ecstasy” after Hirst’s butterfly diptych and Irving Stone’s biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarroti derived from the Renaissance painter’s correspondence. The exhibition proposes to revisit the infinite possibilities of how we perceive each other and ourselves, said Francesca Amfitheatrof, curator of the show.

Koons, who is one of the world’s best selling artists and accompanied Pinault on Friday, said that nothing could mean more for artists than to have their work in Pinault’s collection.

“He (Pinault) surrounds himself with interesting objects, is a great collector, and he shares those works with people. Collectors also have an obligation to protect the artworks, and in life, it is quite challenging to take care of them. Francois seems to do a great job. So him having a significant collection in this moment is a tremendous platform,” said Koons.

Pinault said that he started collecting art since about 40 years ago simply because it was interesting. He grew up in a small town in France where it was difficult to enjoy art, and the first time he visited a museum was when he was around 30 years old.

Like most people, he was first interested in relatively easy figurative art like Impressionist paintings, and then 20th century and contemporary art. He enjoys visiting artists’ ateliers to discover new artists.

“I am an entrepreneur, and collecting contemporary art is a way for me to see today and also the future,” said Pinault.

He mentioned Lee U-fan as a close friend, a Korean artist he is interested in and whose works he collects.

“He is not yet such an immense artist in the world but soon will be. I am interested in Korean art as I am in Japanese and Chinese art. Nationality is not important in art, so I never ask the artists’ nationalities,” said Pinault.

The exhibition runs through Nov. 19 at SongEun ArtSpace in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 3448-0100 or visit

By Park Min-young  (