Two Recently Opened French Private Museums Look to Bring Art to All

France is hardly immune to the private museum phenomenon. In recent years, collectors have been opening spaces to showcase their treasures and share their interest in a certain area of art or their commitment to a cause. In May, Korean artist Lee Ufan opened a museum for his art in Arles. Art critic Alexia Guggémos, who focuses on smiles throughout art history, is preparing for the inauguration of her Musée du sourire (Smile Museum), in a former Sergent-Major quill pen factory in the 17th arrondissement in Paris. Below, a look at two recently inaugurated private museums.

An attractive white man in a suit stands with a Black man whose clothes are covered in paint. They stand in a studio in front of a painting and atop a drop sheet that is covered in paint.
Nicolas Laugero Lasserre (left) with artist JonOne.

Art for All

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Nicolas Laugero Lasserre has always been passionate about street art. He started collecting more than 20 years ago, and his purchases have grown only bolder over the years. His “obsession,” as he puts it, is to make art as accessible and inclusive as possible. After curating more than 70 exhibitions around the world (all of which offered free admission), he chose to put his acquisitions on permanent public view. Since 2016, about 150 of them have been at École 42, French billionaire Xavier Niel’s school of computer science, while 30 others are on loan to ICART, the school of cultural and art market management that he has run for the past seven years. For the Paris startup incubator Station F, Laugero Lasserre had 40 monumental installations produced and 30 more for the Mie de Pain, France’s largest shelter for unhoused people. (Mie de Pain also houses around 100 loans from his collection.) And then there is Fluctuart, the first floating museum in France, whose permanent display includes 20 pieces from his 800-plus-work collection. Moored next to the Grand Palais, it will soon be twinned with another barge devoted to contemporary photography. Scheduled to open next summer, this new venue will be located on Quai de la Gare in Paris’s 13th arrondissement.

An art gallery showing two unstreched abstract canvases on the wall and a sculpture hanging from a cross beam that is made of vairous shredded textiles and feathers.
Claude Viallat’s work was on view this summer at the Bonisson Art Center.

Estate of the Art

Situated in Rognes, a 30-minute drive from Aix-en-Provence, Paul Cézanne’s birthplace, Château Bonisson, is a private home, 2½-acre vineyard, and cultural destination rolled into one. Behind this particularly personal project is Christian Le Dorze, an oncologist who purchased the estate in 2017 because he felt that he “had something to offer the community.” By something, this enthusiast, whose daughter manages the property’s viticulture, means art: last year, Le Dorze opened the Bonisson Art Center, where four yearly exhibitions, curated in partnership with blue-chip galleries, are to succeed one another across four rooms and two floors. Each show comes with a self-published catalogue, and some site-specific installations are likely to become permanent. As well as enjoying the presentation, visitors are invited to taste the domain’s white, red, and rosé vintages—all for free. The way Le Dorze sees collecting is not as a “selfish pleasure,” but as a passion to be shared with as many people as possible. A keenness for art that dawned 40 years ago led to Le Dorze’s acquiring Dijon-based artist Yan Pei Ming’s very first Mao portrait; it hangs among other gems for only a happy few to enjoy in his residence next door.

An art gallery showing black-and white photographs of trees in a forest. On the left wall is a diptych. ON the right wall is a six-panel work.
Naomi Safran-Hon’s work was on view this summer at the Bonisson Art Center.

Other Collectors in France to Know: 

Philippe Austruy
Conceptual art

Françoise and Jean-Philippe Billarant
Conceptual and minimal art

Évelyne and Jacques Deret
Contemporary art

Sandra Hegedüs
Contemporary art and design

Guillaume Houzé
Contemporary art

Garance Primat
Contemporary art

Patricia and Eric Laigneau
Classical and contemporary art

Bernard Magrez
Contemporary art

Patrick “Paddy” McKillen
Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade
Contemporary art

Helena and Guy Motais de Narbonne
French and Italian paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries

Frédéric Perez
Eco-focused art

Bernar Venet
Le Muy
Conceptual and minimal art

A version of this article appears in the 2022 edition of ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors issue, under the title “French Connection.”


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