The Center Pompidou, the museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art

The Center Georges Pompidou, commonly known as the Center Pompidou, is a museum of modern and contemporary art located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, between the Halles district and the Marais district. Inaugurated in 1977 by the President of the Republic Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, it bears the name of its creator, President Georges Pompidou, who died in 1974 and whose desire was to create, in the heart of Paris, a place dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Designed by Italian architects Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, the Center Georges Pompidou welcomes more than 3 million visitors each year, making it one of the most visited places in France, behind the Louvre Museum and the palace of Versailles . In this article, we are going to look at the history of Center Pompidou and explore the different levels that equip this center dedicated to culture.

The history of the Center Pompidou

At the beginning of the 1970s, the President of the Republic Georges Pompidou wanted to put an end to the decline of Paris on the artistic scene, while maintaining its position as world leader in the field of contemporary arts in order to cope with the emergence of museums and New York galleries. Its desire is also to open French art to the world, while promoting the mixture of new artistic forms within a single cultural center. Georges Pompidou chose the Beaubourg plateau to establish this new museum dedicated to contemporary arts, while integrating the project of the large public library, initially planned for this location. President Pompidou thus wishes to introduce visitors to the library to new artistic activities such as music, literature and the plastic arts. To differentiate itself from the Louvre Museum , the Center Pompidou will only have to accommodate works of modern art and be in perpetual evolution in order to constantly attract a new public. In 1971, President Georges Pompidou decided to incorporate a center for musical creation into the project, which would see the light of day under the name of IRCAM. In December 1972, the foundations of the future center were laid on a plot of 16000m² with a depth of 16 meters. The assembly of the metal structure began in October 1974 and the architecture, composed mainly of huge metal beams, required the use of gigantic cranes for 9 months. Thus, 28 poles 49 meters high are attached to 84 beams 45 meters long, the weight of which is around 75 tonnes per beam. The Georges Pompidou Center was finally inaugurated on January 31, 1977, after 5 years of work, and it opened its doors to the public on February 2. At the time, the architecture of the site was strongly criticized because everything that was usually concealed, such as pipes, pipes or even electric staircases, was highlighted on the facade of the building. Some Parisians will also rename the Center Pompidou “Notre-Dame de la Piping”! However, the inhabitants of Paris are seduced by this new building which, initially, was to receive 5000 visitors per day and which, finally, will welcome 5 times more, as soon as it opens. Major expansion work will be carried out in 1997, increasing the total area of the Center Pompidou by 8,000 m². Spread over 10 levels and with a surface area of 45,000m², the Center Pompidou now welcomes more than 3 million visitors every year.

Interior view of the Center Pompidou in Paris

The National Museum of Modern Art at the Center Pompidou

Installed in the premises of the Center Pompidou, the National Museum of Modern Art (MNAM) extends over 2 levels and has 18,700m² of exhibitions. Level 4 is dedicated to contemporary art and modern art occupies level 5. The establishment accommodates galleries for temporary exhibitions and various spaces dedicated to the museum, making the National Museum of Modern Art, the world number 2 in terms of modern and contemporary art exhibitions. The Center Pompidou Museum brings together more than 110,000 works and art objects. The Museum is made up of:

  • A library,
  • A multimedia space,
  • 2 temporary exhibition galleries,
  • The museum and graphic art galleries,
  • 5 additional temporary exhibition galleries (dedicated to photography, architecture and design, i.e. 5,400m² of surface area),
  • 2 large galleries on level 6 (space 315 and the gallery dedicated to photography).

The Public Information Library of the Center Pompidou

Located in the premises of the Center Pompidou, the public information library, also known as the BPI, brings together 400,000 documents, including a collection of 371,000 printed volumes. Spread over 3 levels, its surface extends over more than 17,000 m², including 10,000 m² devoted to the reading room which can accommodate up to 2,200 people. It is accessed via rue Beaubourg, located at the rear of the building, and the public information library has its own cafeteria. The BPI also has a language media library, a nightclub and 2 cinemas that can accommodate up to 500 spectators. A large auditorium and a small conference room complete the installation.

The Brancusi workshop opposite the Center Georges Pompidou

Located on Place Georges Pompidou, the Brancusi workshop is an annex of the Center Pompidou dedicated to stone and sculpture. This 600 m² glyptotheque is in fact a reconstruction of the workshop of the sculptor Constantin Brancusi. 2,500 works are exhibited there, including 137 sculptures and 87 original pedestals, as well as glass photographic plates and original prints. 200 records and 160 works are visible in the workshop.

Interior view of the Center Pompidou-Metz

Center Pompidou-Metz

Created in 2006, the Center Pompidou-Metz is one of the most visited French art museums in France. It is also the first museum to have been the subject of a decentralization of a cultural center. Opened in May 2010, the Center Pompidou-Metz was created by architects Shigeru Ban, Jean de Gastines and Philippe Gumuchdjian. This center is part of an urbanization project in the amphitheater district of the city of Metz. The building, with a surface area of 5000m², houses more than 800 works, most of them from the collections of the Center Pompidou in Paris. There are paintings, sculptures and works from the graphic arts or cinema. During its inauguration, works such as “Woman with a Guitar” by Georges Braque, “The Sadness of the King” by Henri Matisse and “Bicycle Wheel” by Marcel Duchamp were exhibited. The Center Pompidou-Metz is made up of 3 galleries of 1150m² each, a large nave of 1200m², a 144-seat auditorium, a 196-seat creative studio, a bookshop-boutique and a Cafe Restaurant.

The Center Pompidou will close its doors between 2023 and 2027 to undergo major restoration work affecting the building. In order to organize your visit, information concerning opening hours, entrance fees, the collections exhibited, the current festival, the various shows, etc. can be consulted online on the website www.centrepompidou.fr.

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