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Pinacothèque de Paris opens this month
Marc Restellini, the founder, aims to create a dramatic setting for travelling shows. New spaces in New York and Tokyo are next.

A new gallery opens in the north of Paris this month in a vast Regency building which will host travelling exhibitions and display art on long-term loan from private collectors.

The Pinacothèque de Paris is the brainchild of Marc Restellini, 38, a former curator at the Musée de Luxembourg, which he left in June, and advisor to the Wildenstein Institute. He plans to open galleries similar to the Pinacothèque de Paris in New York next year and in Tokyo in 2005.

The building has cost Mr Restellini an estimated 7 million euros, the bulk of which has come from bank loans underwritten by the French government, and the rest from private sponsors.

Inspired by US and Japanese private museums, Mr Restellini hopes to run his new gallery along the same lines by attracting top international touring exhibitions. “It’s an industrial model, on the lines of a cinema, whereby an exhibition is produced and then distributed to various international galleries”, he told The Art Newspaper. He cited the exhibition programme of the Royal Academy in London as an example of the mixture of shows which he hopes to secure, from exhibitions of Old Masters to Modern and contemporary art, Asian art and displays of fashion.

Mr Restellini is known in the French museum world for his flamboyant curatorial style and for staging shows where the mise-en-scène is very theatrical, with strong lighting and dramatic staging, designed to attract as wide an audience as possible. He curated the recent “Modigliani: the melancholy angel” exhibition at the Musée de Luxembourg which, despite remarkably high visitor figures, was slammed by some critics. Its catalogue, especially, was thought to lack scholarly value.

The Pinacothèque de Paris is housed in the former premises of the Musée Baccarat, a huge (over 4,000 square-metres) richly decorated building with gilding and elaborate woodwork. The decor is to be left intact, although new security equipment is to be installed.

The gallery opened on 6 November with an exhibition of 80 Picasso paintings from the collection of Jacqueline, the artist’s last wife (until 28 March). Tickets are priced at 12 euros, significantly more than most Paris museums. Mr Restellini says he hopes to “desanctify Picasso”, by presenting much personal documentation, including some 160 personal photos of Picasso en famille. He also intends to show the great artist as a “man of the south” by installing the works against a backdrop of rich Mediterranean colours such as pinks and ochres.

When the exhibition closes, the building will shut down for refurbishment. Mr Restellini told The Art Newspaper that he wanted to open the gallery as soon as he could rather than leave it empty for the 12 months that it takes to secure the necessary permits for building works in France.