Former Paris Stock Exchange To Be Transformed into Art Museum

The renovation will be so remarkable, according to the lead architect, it will cure Brexit-induced malaise

The Bourse de Commerce building will soon transition to a modern art museum. Wikimedia Commons

The Bourse de Commerce, an arresting circular structure that once housed the Paris stock exchange, is located just steps away from the Louvre and the Palais Royal. Less well known than its famous neighbors, the Bourse de Commerce may soon become a major landmark of the Paris art scene. As Angelique Chrisafis reports for The Guardian, a French businessman recently unveiled his plans to revive the historic building by transforming it into a modern art museum.

François Pinault, a luxury goods magnate who has acquired top-tier fashion brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, will use the museum to house his expansive art collection, valued at approximately $1.43 billion. The renovation will cost €108 million (about $120 million), Tina Isaac-Goizé reports for Vogue, and will include 3,000 square meters of exhibition space, a basement auditorium and a restaurant on the top floor. Many of the building’s original features—its glass cupola, its 19th century ironwork, its double-helix staircase—will be preserved.

When it was built in 1767, the Bourse de Commerce functioned as a grain market. A renovation in 1809 replaced the building’s wooden dome with an elaborate iron one, which Victor Hugo compared to an “English jockey cap” in his novel Notre Dame de Paris. The Bourse, Chrisafis writes, “is one of the great structural treasures of the city – considered by some as being on par with Notre Dame cathedral for its architectural heritage. Yet, until as recently as this year, it served as the dusty offices of the city’s chamber of commerce.”

On Monday, Pinault appeared at the Bourse with his son, François-Henri Pinault, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, and the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who will lead the renovation process. Andao promised the new museum, slated to open in 2019, will soothe the discontent and unease that have washed over Europe in recent years. 

“These are tumultuous times in Europe – the recurring terrorist incidents and the UK withdrawal from the EU have fuelled anxiety over what the future holds, and countries and people alike seem unsure of their own identities,” he said, adding that the renovated Bourse would “renew hope in the future.”

For his part, Pinault stressed that his new project “is not personal, but familial and collective,” according to Isaac-Goizé.

Despite these messages of unity, there may be a sense of competition underpinning Pinault’s ambitious venture. As Doreen Carvajal of the New York Times notes, Pinault’s business rival Bernard Arnault—also a luxury goods magnate, also a prolific art collector—announced he would open a private art museum in Paris earlier this year.

When Carvajal asked Pinault about possible tensions with Arnault, he said simply: “In the field of art, we don’t speak of competition.”

Rivalry or no, it's hard to see the influx of new museums as anything other than a boon for Paris.