At Place de la Madeleine, renowned for its luxury food boutiques and designer shops, every square metre of real estate is so sought after you’d never think there would be room enough for a large museum. So imagine Paris’ surprise when, in 2007, the Crédit Agricole bank decided to turn their office block at 28 place de la Madeleine into the Pinacothèque – a 5000m2 art museum, dedicated to expression through the ages, displaying everything from archaeological finds to contemporary art.
It was a risky move, but one that has ultimately paid off: Since opening roughly five years ago, the museum has reeled in over 2 million visitors by offering a wide variety of artworks rarely shown in France. Artists Roy Lichtenstein, Chaïm Soutine and Jackson Pollack have all had retrospectives, for instance, and treasures such as China’s Xi’an Dynasty warrior statues and gold from the Incas have also been displayed. In short, the Pinacothèque has fast become an appealing option if you can’t face the crowds at behemoths like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou.
And, aside from its ever-changing world-class exhibitions, the museum (whose name derives from pinacothêkê in Greek – meaning “box of paintings”) has fittingly acquired a new building just opposite (at 8 rue Vignon) and an impressive permanent collection of a hundred or so paintings on loan from private collectors. Set over 800m2 you’ll find masterworks by artists like Van Dyck, Monet, Modigliani, Delacroix and Pollack, some of which have never before been hung in a museum.
It’s not just the joy of seeing rare artworks all together that makes your visit interesting, it’s also the way they are presented: Museum director Marc Restellini pays tribute to art collectors (who rarely stick to just one style or era) by abandoning traditional conventions and displaying his collection according to colour, themes or subject thus creating a dialogue between the artworks regardless of when they were painted. For instance you might see Bouguereau’s ‘academic’ Beauté Romaine (1904) alongside Marcel Duchamp’s ‘futurist’ Course de Chevaux (horse race, 1910) – two very different works painted just six years apart; or 15th-century rabbits by Miquel Barcelo, next to 17th-century chickens painted by Carstian Luyckx. It’s an interesting set up, and one that’s well worth a couple of hours of your time.