Pompidou’s Modern Art Collections Rival the Best in New York or London:The Pompidou Centre is known to Parisians simply as Beaubourg (after the neighbourhood). Even for the French, ‘Beauboug’ is much easier than trying to use its full name, The The Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou. This cultural institution in the heart of Paris is a museum of modern art rivaling the best in New York or London.
By design, so to speak, the architecture of the 1977 Beaubourg building is in sharp contrast to the traditional surrounding houses of Paris’ oldest district.
Looking like a cross between a hyper-modern factory joined to a low-rise office building, it accurately reflects its contents. The red, blue and green pipes on the rear are only one example of the tradition busting goals of its makers.
The colour-coded ducts attached to the outside of the building are part of the design concept: blue for air; green for fluids; yellow for electricity cables; and red for movement and flow and safety. So the air conditioning ducts are in blue, water pipes are green and electrical conduits are colored yellow. Escalators are in red and the ventilation shafts are white in the underground areas.
The goals of the two young architects who won the Pompidou centre design competition, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, were to ‘turn the building inside out’, and they’ve largely succeeded. A low glass box that looks like the scaffolding is yet to be removed, the modern heir to Bauhaus displays air-conditioning ducts and metal stairs on the exterior.
All the better to provide space for works on the interior, so it’s said.
Sponsored by and named after the French president, the Pompidou is a faithful reflection of the art trends of the last century. Every recognized name of the last hundred years is here alongside hundreds lesser or entirely unknown. Among the collection of 56,000 works are well-known names such as Matisse, Pollock, Miro, Braque, Chagall, Dali, Duchamp, Picasso, Kandinsky, Magritte, Klee… even Kelly and Warhol.
Warhol’s Ten Lizes is not to be missed. An array of five small paintings atop another five, the work depicts Elizabeth Taylor in the now-familiar Warhol style. Multi-hued, multi-contrast and sharp-grained it presents Warhol at his Warholyist.
All the art movements of the last century are represented. There are examples of Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism along with many that have no names.
Built at a cost of $100 million, the cultural centre houses four major activities within its million square feet: the exhibits, a reference library, a centre for industrial design and a centre for music and acoustic research.
Ride the Plexiglas escalator to the top where there is a panoramic restaurant, ‘Le Georges’ at level six. One can sit and look out on the street performers at the Place George Pompidou in front, or view the nearby Stravinsky Fountain. Pricey, but with good views of the skyline, the visitor can see Montparnasse, the Eiffel Tower and much more. Rest and refresh before continuing to view the massive collection.
The museum is easy to find. Take the metro to Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville or Châtelet.
Place Georges Pompidou