By: Dominique Vidalon
Steve Rosenblum is known as the chairman and one of the founders of French online retailer PIXmania, one of the dotcom era success stories.
What fewer people know is that Rosenblum, 36, is also an enthusiastic art collector.
After years of frantic contemporary art acquisition, Rosenblum and his wife Chiara, are opening a 1,300 sq m (13,990 sq ft) gallery in Paris next month.
"Rosenblum Collection and Friends
" includes 150 pieces by 40 international artists including Christian Boltanski, Matthias Bitzer, Christoph Buchel, Kelly Walker, or Barbara Kruger.
It will display the works The Rosenblum collected as well as works from the same artists that belong to their friends.
The space, a former photo laboratory in the up and coming 13th arrondissement, is designed to recreate the relaxed atmosphere of a home with dining room, library, kitchen and a children's area.
The couple will host dinners and encounters with artists whose work will be on display.
"We want to share the works, support the artists and show that art is not that inaccessible a thing. This is not a museum," Rosenblum told Reuters while overseeing the installation of the collection.
Rosenblum views the gallery as a place to hang out, where people feel comfortable and can exchange ideas, light years away from museums or more formal "institutions" like the contemporary art center French billionaire Bernard Arnault, the head of luxury group LVMH, also plans to set up in Paris.
"There is no curator. It's just my wife and me," he said.
Artists have been asked to fill the library with books, music, or films that they like or that influenced their work.
"What's exciting is to confront ideas, sit on a sofa, grab a book, meet people who share a common passion," he said.
Artists will also donate to the kids' area an object that belonged to them when they were children and help design "family guides" to help parents explain the works on display in a fun way, said Rosenblum, a father of three.
"We want kids to feel good here. They can paint and show their work. We will also hook up with the schools," he said.
Inspired by the development of online social networks like Twitter or Facebook, Rosenblum has developed a networking tool on the collection's website -- wwww.rosenblumcollection.eu -- where "friends" can exchange comments and information on the artists whose work they collect or admire.
Rosenblum started 15 years ago to collect African masks and fabrics but began focusing on contemporary art 10 years ago.
The shock of the September 11 attacks, which Rosenblum says became a reference point for his generation, was a turning point, accelerating the couple's collection pace.
Typically, the first large piece Rosenblum bought after September 11 was the installation by Swiss artist Christoph Buchel that re-created a blown-up luggage container.
"Art really helped us a lot as a means to express and understand the state of the world," he said.
The space will open on October 21 for the start of the international FIAC contemporary art fair in Paris.
It will be open every day during international events such as art fairs or Fashion Week.
Otherwise, it will be open to the public one to three times a week by appointment for groups of up to 15 people.
The first show, "Born in Dystopia," will feature about 50 pieces from 20 artists and focus on political and social themes.
Rosenblum Collection & Friends
Opening October 21
183 rue du Chevaleret
By appointment only
Entry fee: 10 euros
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, editing by Paul Casciato)