The latecomer among the palaces on the Grand Canal of Venice, Palazzo Grassi has an academic classical style that is in contrast to the surrounding Byzantine Romanesque and Baroque Venetian palazzi. It has a formal palace façade, constructed in white marble, and lacking the lower mercantile openings typical of many Venetian patrician palaces.
The Grassi family sold the palazzo in 1840, with ownership that followed passing through many different individuals. The Palazzo was purchased by the Fiat Group in 1983, under the late chairman Gianni Agnelli, and it underwent a complete restoration overseen by Count Antonio Foscari Widmann Rezzonico, the current owner of Villa Foscari. The group's aim was to transform Palazzo Grassi into an exhibition hall for the visual arts. It continues to be used as an art gallery today.
Between 1984 and 1990, Pontus Hultén was in charge of the art museum which also contains a 600 seat outdoor theatre. Since 2006, the palace has been owned by the french entrepreneur François Pinault who exhibits his personal art collection there. Currently, there is some interest in the Grassi family, who reside in New York, to purchase the palazzo back with the intentions of maintaining it as an art museum.