We are not particularly fond of modern/contemporary art so the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Europe’s largest museum of modern art), in the Centre Pompidou isn’t on our list of special places in Paris (sorry modern art lovers!). But, we love the actual building and the squares around it. The building is innovative and different and the squares are always humming with buskers, street performers, crowds of kids with soccer balls, and the square with the Stravinsky Fountains has a number of really good places for lunch. One of our favorites is the Creperie Beaubourg, which I’ve written about before (see here https://vivsfrenchadventures.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/paris-restaurants-the-known-and-the-new/ )
So, what is so special about this building?
In the early 1970s George Pompidou (President of France 1969-1974) wanted to build a cultural center in Paris that would attract visitors and be a new type of monument in the city. A competition was arranged, which was won by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, both unknown at the time. They collaborated and erected one of the most famous and radical, almost futuristic, buildings of the time in the city.
The building is distinctive in many ways. Each of the 7 floors extends through the building entirely uninterrupted by load-bearing structures, thus freeing up the space inside. So, each floor can be used to display art works, or for other activities, and each floor can be divided up and reorganized in any way needed. This makes the use of the space very flexible.
The other pioneering aspect of the center is that it used steel and glass, and that the load-bearing structures are external to the building, as are the circulation services. So, it’s known as an exoskeletal building. The services and pipes are color-coded: white for the structure’s “bones”; red for the lifts and escalators for people; blue for air ducts; green for plumbing; and yellow for electrical things. This all makes the exterior of the Centre Pompidou very interesting to look at.
Besides the modern art museum on the 4th and 5th floors, the Centre houses a huge public library, and a center for music and acoustic research known as IRCAM. It’s fun to go into the Centre and up the escalators in the tunnels/tubes on the outside front of the building, for a great view of the square and surroundings and, once at the top, of much of Paris. (Note: you do need to pay to get into the building, unless it’s a free day).
The Centre was officially opened on January 31, 1977, and since then has welcomed more than 150 million visitors. So, one must conclude that Pompidou’s vision became a successful reality.
As I said, the squares around the Centre are always busy and it’s fun to watch some of the performers or buy a trinket from one of the vendors, who set their stuff out on the paving.
Recently when we were there we noticed that there are 3 new outdoor sculptures that were not there about 8 months earlier when we visited.
Two are up on the very edge of the big square and one is very close to the entrance. The two are sculptures of people, both by Xavier Veilhan (born 1963), a French artist who lives and works in Paris. Both are stainless steel, painted, and constructed in 2013. Both are a gift from Galerie Perrotin et Beaumarly-Glibert et Thierry Costes, 2017. One is Renzo Piano and the other Richard Rogers, the architects of the Centre Pompidou.
The other is a sculpture of a very large thumb. It is in polished bronze, done by Cesar (full name Cesar Baldaccini) 1921-1998, who was a French sculptor born of Italian immigrants. He was at the forefront of the New Realism movement, with his radical compressions, expansions with polyurethane foam, and fantastical animals and insects.
The official name is Pouce (Thumb), 1965-1998, Edition 2/8. This is a representation of his thumb that was reproduced in many sizes.
Given courtesy Luxembourg and Dayan.