To open a museum in Paris, a city crammed with art institutions, takes nerve, particularly when you do not have a collection. In 2007 entrepreneur Marc Restellini launched the Pinacothèque de Paris, an exhibition space near the Eglise de la Madeleine. Privately funded and unashamedly commercial, it was greeted with icy hostility by the city's art establishment. Yet, it worked. ARTKABINETT social network for fine art collectors has featured some of their art events on our AK Calendar pages.
Even if you don't buy the numbers cited by Pinacothèque press agents, the success of its shows -- the last, "The Gold of the Incas," has just closed -- is undeniable.
Restellini has opened a new space, 3,000 square meters on two levels, across the street. The title of the first exhibition says it all: Youíre invited to witness "The Birth of a Museum."
What you find is three different shows: The first, some 100 paintings, comes from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg; the second, about half the size, is from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts; the third is described as ìthe permanent collection of the Pinacotheque.î
How did the resourceful Restellini produce a permanent collection out of thin air? He did not.
On closer inspection, you discover that the 100 or so paintings, with a couple of ancestor figures from Borneo thrown in, belong to 40 private collectors and are on loan for periods running from 1 to 10 years.
The diversity of subjects and styles is wide. A portrait by Van Dyck hangs next to a landscape by Corot, a "Roman Beauty" by the academic painter William Bouguereau (1825-1905) jostles a Surrealist scene by Max Ernst (1891-1976).
Restellini defends the jumble by recalling the Wunderkammern, "the chaotic collections of kings and princes that preceded our museums before they fell into the hands of nitpicking art historians and curators. To turn the clock back, he says, promises to be a ìunique experience."
If you do not concur, you can always savor the loans from St. Petersburg and Budapest.
The hanging here is also unconventional: Instead of being grouped together by country of origin or school, the Hermitage paintings are presented in the order of their acquisition by the czars -- from Peter the Great (1672-1725) to Nicholas I (1796- 1855) -- which makes for some strange bedfellows.
Not all of the canvases are masterpieces. Yet there are enough that merit attention: Rembrandt's "David and Jonathan (above right)," Velazquez"s portrait of the Conde-Duque de Olivares (right), or the daughters of the mad Czar Paul painted by Elisabeth Vigee- Lebrun, to mention but a few.
The loans from Budapest also include worthwhile pieces -- not least Raphael's "Esterhazy Madonna," named after Prince Nicholas II Esterhazy (1765-1833), whose huge collection later became the nucleus of the museum.
The new wing of the Pinacothèque de Paris is at 8 Rue Vignon."La Naissance du Musee" runs through May 29.
28 Place de la Madeleine
75008 Paris, France
01 42 68 02 01