Jackie Wullschlager had lunch with François Pinault for the Financial Times’s series of ‘Lunch with the FT’ profiles. The long essay paraphrases from Pinault a fair bit but he also talks about his path as a collector:
[I]n 1980, in London, he stepped into an auction house for the first time. “I saw a small canvas by [Pont-Aven artist] Paul Sérusier, a Breton scene of a farm with an old woman. I bought it because she resembled my grandmother. That was my first significant purchase. Then I looked, I read, and I galloped through the twentieth century – Picasso and the cubists, surrealism.” A landmark was Mondrian’s “Tableau Losangique II”, bought for $8.8m in 1990, which announced the rigorous, cerebral nature of his taste.
[…] In the 1990s, he realised that from the postwar period onwards, “one could still find major things”. “Everything earlier was already in museums, it was too late,” he says. “Then – voilà! – I arrived at the contemporary. Two things mattered: the first, to do with my character, my curiosity for knowledge; the second, to be able to buy artists who count.”
[…] “Mon propre goût,” Pinault says suddenly, as our main courses appear, “is minimalism – Donald Judd, Robert Ryman, things assez mystique, big white paintings.” He stabs at his scallops, pushing the accompanying spinach to one side as irrelevant. “But I didn’t want to be a maniac, collecting just one thing, imprisoned in a sole period. So – j’ai enlargi la palette de ma connaissance [I widened the scope of my knowledge]. Also a spirit of tolerance made me look more broadly.”
Lunch with the FT: François Pinault (Financial Times)