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Très Expressif

January 31, 2017

C’est quoi ça? Between trying to act French and expressing my curiosity, I think those words did well enough. In the middle of a breathless week in Paris, my friend and I had stopped at the next big item on our admittedly-touristy Paris Pass: the Centre Pompidou. We had just returned from Versailles the previous morning, so while we were used to buildings with character, this was something different.

The Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers experiment with architecture certainly doesn’t look like your classic institution of the arts, but then, that’s the genius. The works housed in the Centre Pompidou are anything but classical. So much of modern and contemporary art is about deconstructing and exposing the means of production, and bringing the eccentricity of the artist to the forefront. The pipes-and-all approach to the building’s design has been as effective at sparking discussion as the exhibitions its hosted over its 40-year history.

It was just shy of 50 years ago when the idea for the Centre first came to French President George Pompidou. Paris was in need of an all-in-one cultural centre. As George put it, the city needed “a cultural centre that was both a museum and centre of creation, where the visual arts would mingle with music, film and books.” So, the brief went out to the world. An architectural competition was set up, and it brought in hundreds of designs from across the world. In the end, the winning design was one that even its creators considered a long shot. In 1977, the Centre was inaugurated, and people started flooding in, carried up to the various galleries by the building’s most striking feature: an escalator affectionately named “the caterpillar.”

Since 1977, the Centre Pompidou has been the site of many excellent exhibitions. It has helped to bring modern and contemporary art to people all around the world, and I’m not just talking about tourists. There have been many successful exhibitions which started at the Centre and hit the road after. In 2005, Lord Cultural Resources helped with logistical and technical supervision of one travelling exhibition including insurance and transport issues, and assisting each venue with the installation and de-installation of the exhibition. The exhibition traveled until early 2009 to locations including: the Fine Art Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; Miami Art Central; Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne; Museo do Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal; Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, Cyprus; and Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii.

In 2017, to celebrate the 40th anniversary, preparations will be made for a major renovation of the Centre Pompidou. It’s a big job, coming in at around €100m. Die-hard lovers of the museum’s architecture can rest assured that the look will remain intact. Even for a guy like me, who loves his Corinthian columns and sculptural friezes, the open-and-out-there design of the museum is just too good to tamper with.

The unmistakable building certainly worked its charms on me two year ago. I was quick to enter and explore. I had to see if the building’s inside was as eccentric as the exterior. I also had a little too much fun going up and down the caterpillar. I may not always go for contemporary art, but I will always go to the Centre Pompidou if I’m in Paris. It might be time to check ticket prices…


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Kevin Valbonesi

About The Author

Kevin Valbonesi is a media specialist with a sweet spot for museums and art galleries. As Communications Coordinator for Lord Cultural Resources, Kevin keeps his finger on the cultural sector’s pulse and highlights the brilliant work being done at Lord.

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