PARIS — In a blow to France’s cultural prestige, François Pinault on Monday said he is abandoning ambitious plans to build a foundation here for his extensive collection of contemporary and modern art.

Meanwhile, the French luxury and retail tycoon, whose family holding controls PPR and Gucci Group, said he completed a deal to buy 80 percent of Venice’s Palazzo Grassi with the view to organize exhibits of his collection of paintings, sculptures and videos in the 18th-century landmark on the Grand Canal.

Pinault paid about 28 million euros, or $36.1 million at current exchange, for his stake in the palazzo.

In a statement, the 68-year-old businessman voiced “intense disappointment and sadness” over the demise of his plans to enlist Japanese architect Tadao Ando to design a 320,000-square-foot complex in a former car factory on an island in the Seine river, just west of Paris.

But he also voiced frustration over mounting administrative red tape, which had stymied the project over the last five years. Sources estimate the titan invested more than 20 million euros, or $25.8 million, in the planning phase of the project alone.

In advance of groundbreaking, Pinault also had commissioned a handful of important artists — including Jeff Koons — to make special pieces tailored to the space. The foundation’s inaugural exhibit was to have been devoted to Koons.

“There are a lot of very disappointed people,” said a spokesman for Pinault. “And Mr. Pinault, of course, is the most disappointed. But he couldn’t wait forever.”

It is not the first time administrative impediments have cost France a prestigious art collection. Recently the country lost the archives of the late photographer Helmut Newton as museums debated what to do with them. Just before his death, Newton decided to give them to Berlin.

Though the Palazzo Grassi, with about 25,000 square feet of exhibit space, is significantly smaller than his Paris foundation would have been, it gives Pinault the opportunity to immediately show a glimpse of his collection. One of Europe’s most active collectors, Pinault owns seminal works by Picasso, Miró, Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol, to name a few.

This story first appeared in the May 10, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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