Jean Pigozzi Art Collection: genesis and rise

jean pigozzi's collection

One of the artworks of Jean Pigozzi’s collection

Jean Pigozzi, born in 1952, is a businessman, philanthropist, photographer, art collector, and heir to the Simca automobile brand. He studied at Harvard University before working for Gaumont Film Company and 20th Century Fox.

His Art collection, called Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection) is the largest in the world of this kind. It is based in Geneva.

The beginning of his collection

Jean has always been interested in Art, as his parents used to own a collection themselves, consisting of Renoir, Sisley, Boudin, Léger artworks for example. Jean’s mother used to take him to museums and Art galleries when he was young opening his eyes to the diversity of the world of art. Through time, he read a lot of art books, art magazines, and went to hundreds of museums, galleries, and exhibitions.

In 1989, Jean Pigozzi visited an exhibition in Paris, called “Earth’s Magicians” which deeply touched him. He realized, at that moment, the richness of contemporary African art, and promptly contacted the commissioner of the exhibition to inquire about developing a collection of his own.

Jean wanted to uncover this kind of art to Occidental countries, most of which have never had access to such artworks. As a child, Jean had always developed a longing for collecting, whether it be rocks or model trains, as an adult, his fixation switched to accumulating African art.

Pigozzi’s interest in Art is its beauty, as well as the fact that it is unprecedented, innovative, and capable of spreading a great strength. He is not one to speak about an artwork for hours.

The collection’s purpose

“Through this collection, my goal is to show the quality and originality of contemporary African Art from the 21st century. I am not in a rush and I have nothing to prove to anyone but I think contemporary African Art has a place in all great contemporary Art museums all over the world. Exhibitions such as Documenta and international biennials contribute to reassure the power and importance of contemporary African Art all over the world. Moreover, they show African Art should be placed at the same level than Occidental Art. As for myself, I think it is often more alive, interesting and innovative”

Jean Pigozzi
jean pigozzi contemporary african art collection of Jean Pigozzi

One of the artworks of Jean Pigozzi’s collection

The collection’s visibility

Pigozzi has given some of his artworks to African museums and the artists he buys from has had dedicated exhibitions all over the world and are represented by prestigious art galleries. He is always interested in giving the artists he buys from some visibility.

He exhibited his collection in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Spain), the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, the Pinacoteca Giovanni and Marella Agnelli in Turin, Italy, the Tate Modern in London; and the National Museum of African Art in Washington. He also exposed his artworks in many exhibitions all over the world.

What does his collection represent to him?

Meeting with the artists he buys from and seeing their previous work is important to Pigozzi. He wants to create relationships from his collection and help artists in their work by giving them visibility and supplies. He wanted this one to be different, original and new, he decides everything he buys carefully with the help of André Magnin. His collection is made of different kinds of Arts, such as minimalist Art, black photography, African nudes, non-figurative paintings, Pigozzi is really open minded, his criteria when buying an artwork is : it must be beautiful, powerful, interesting and original.

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