Paris’s Rebellious Muse: The Pompidou Center Gets a Makeover

Unlike the Louvre, Cathedral, and Opera House in Paris, which prefer to express classical sentiments, the Georges Pompidou National Center for Art and Culture (hereinafter referred to as the Pompidou Center) is an art carnival for young people, an outlier in the city of Paris. It is extremely rebellious and arrogant, and deliberately goes against all traditional architectural forms: there are no walls on the outside, no columns on the inside, exposed pipelines and steel structures on the back, and a glass elevator diagonally across the front as if there is no one around. The outside is loose enough, but the inside is even more arbitrary. Even an ordinary bicycle rim can be called a work of art.

Nearly 50 years have passed since its completion in 1977. This once criticized modern art museum has become one of the most popular cultural centers in France and even the world. However, recently, the chairman of the Pompidou Center said that the center will gradually close in 2024, completely close in 2025, start renovations in 2026, and reopen in 2030.

So why does the Pompidou Center undergo such a massive renovation project? After five years of separation, what surprises will it bring to the world?
Paris “monster”, the alien of the city’s toy on the right bank of the Seine

The French newspaper Le Figaro once described the Center Pompidou in a slightly bitter tone: “Paris has its monsters, just like Loch Ness has its monster.”

If you look at it from the top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris is classic and elegant. At a glance, the city looks like a vast and flat old chessboard, divided into exquisite blocks by winding and capable “straight” avenues. The buildings are all low, but there is no lack of complexity, beauty and refinement. The Marais district where the Pompidou Center is located is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris, and the right bank of the Seine River where it is located is the most bookish place in Paris. One can imagine how rebellious, out-of-the-box, and maverick-looking a building with bright and flamboyant colors that seems to have had its own skin peeled off and its bones turned out when placed among a pile of old antiques.

Even the designer Piano himself said: “It is like a huge spaceship made of glass, steel and colored pipes that accidentally landed in the center of Paris and quickly took root there.” His partner Rogers , and was even “hit” with an umbrella by a woman living in Paris because she revealed that she was the designer of the Pompidou Center on social occasions.

Parisians know the art of sarcasm best, so the Pompidou Center has many nicknames: “Drilling Platform”, “Architectural Gorilla”, “Refinery”, “Chemical Plant”, etc. Some people even protested and marched during the construction and used litigation and legal means to prevent its completion.

However, the then French President Georges Pompidou was determined to build this art center in memory of de Gaulle. In order to implement this “weird” design that stood out from 681 proposals from 49 countries, he did not hesitate to approve the demolition of the “Gourmet of Paris”, a historical building specifically described in a novel by the French writer Zola. Vegetable market. Unfortunately, President Pompidou died of cancer in 1974 and did not wait until the completion and opening of the Art Center in 1977. To commemorate him, the art center was named “Pompidou”.

Unexpectedly, the ridicule and protests during the construction became the “natural flow” of the art center after it opened. An average of more than 20,000 people visit every day. In just two years, the Pompidou Center has received approximately 14 million visitors, far more than the Eiffel Tower.

In fact, the reason for the controversy surrounding the Art Center is its greatest feature: exposed ventilation, drainage, electrical piping and mechanical equipment. This architectural style is called “High Tech”.

The Industrial Revolution gave birth to machine aesthetics. Le Corbusier, the soul of the architectural world, proposed in his book “Towards a New Architecture” that “a house is a machine for living.” Later, the British Architectural Telegraph School, six young architects headed by British architect Peter Cook, called for getting rid of the constraints of reality, exploring new ways of architecture and urban development, and embracing the worship of technology, in the architectural world Set off a futuristic trend.

They proposed architectural concepts that are quite utopian and romantic, such as “plug-in city”, “walking city” and “instant city”. Its architectural structure, form and color are comparable to scenes in science fiction movies. On the basis of their inheritance, the high-tech school also integrates materials and technologies from aerospace science into its architecture. Metal structures, aluminum, and glass have become new visual elements and constructed new architectural structures, ultimately forming a mature design language.

All the beams, columns, space trusses, pipelines, HVAC and lighting equipment that are hidden in traditional architecture are unabashedly exposed in the Pompidou Center, which is shocking at first glance. Different parts are painted in different colors to distinguish different characters. Rogers called this practice “Inside Out.” He believes that architecture is honest and should not be hidden.

Finally, the Pompidou Center pioneered the high-tech movement in Paris and is known as “the last great modern building” and “the first great post-modern building”. After that, high-tech buildings popped up all over the world, which are considered fashionable even today.

Inexplicable, yet unexpectedly beautiful collection of Picasso and Klein Blue

With such an avant-garde appearance, what should be packed inside?

When a visitor who knows nothing about contemporary art enters this art center, his initial feeling may be baffling: “How can everything be regarded as art? Some ‘works’ are even just an empty room, a urinal, and a wheel. “But gradually, their five senses will be stimulated, and they will slowly feel the most intuitive and immersive beauty.

The Pompidou Center is divided into five floors and consists of four parts: the Industrial Creation Center, the Public Knowledge Library, the Art Gallery and the Institute of Coordination of Music and Acoustics. Among them, the art museum displays to the public more than 120,000 contemporary art works in the fields of visual art, painting, photography, new media, experimental film, architecture, and industrial design. This number ranks first in Europe and second in the world. The grand view of art.

Since the 1960s, artists have liberated themselves from the shackles of the easel, creating a period of the most diverse art forms. Sometimes they used unexpected, fragile and volatile materials to create works, which gave rise to art movements such as Arte Povera and Fluxus. Because of experiments with new materials and new technologies, dynamic art, visual art, etc. also emerged. Art schools and movements such as Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Conceptual Art emerged in endlessly. The Pompidou Center exists just for them.

Here, each work of art is passionate and goes out of its way to invite the viewer to interact with them, thereby constantly forming new art. For example, the artwork “Shop” was originally just a cramped storefront that was moved exactly from the southern city of Nice. At first, some people used it to sell records, dentures, and some weird sundries. Later, it became a place where artists could interact with each other, like a gallery or studio. After moving to the Center Pompidou, the audience was guided again, bringing endless dynamic changes to the work.

Just like Marcel Duchamp, the pioneer of experimental art, trying to convince people that urinals can also become works of art. Ben, the creator of “Shop”, after the “Duchamp Shock”, firmly believed in the concept that all objects have artistic potential. Ben used white paint to write many of his essays and philosophical thoughts about art on the black wall of the store, and also invited the audience to leave messages. “I paint for honor” “This looks good, but what can it be used for” “Everyone who passes through this door will become a living sculpture” “My children can also do this”… So far, here comes Visitors to the store also become participants and even creators of art.

The Pompidou Center houses a collection of thunderous masterpieces. Pablo Picasso, one of the founders of Cubism, has some works collected in the museum. His “Glass, Lemon and Wine Jar” created in 1944 simplified the depicted objects into disrupted, perspective geometric shapes, abandoning the ancient purpose of painting to imitate reality.

The works of Wassily Kandinsky, the founder of abstract art, also add brilliant colors to this art treasure house. “Black Arc” gets rid of the traces of real-world objects or objects, and only uses “structure” and “color” to evoke emotions and feelings.

And Yves Klein. Even if you have never heard of his name, you must have heard of “Klein Blue”. The blue color named after him once became a fashion icon that swept the world. Klein was a promoter of New Realism art and one of the forerunners of Pop Art. “SE 71, Tree, Blue Sponge” he created in 1962 is at the Center Pompidou. This sculpture uses sponge as the medium, and its unique “monochrome” creation mode has opened up a new “feeling space” for the European art field.

The Pompidou Center has an attitude from the outside to the inside. It encompasses all artistic expressions such as consciousness awakening and social speculation, and is fearless in creation and full of vitality. As former French President Pompidou said: “If art is to make people say good, great, great, then art will be boring. There is nothing more scary than academic art. There is no art that is completely empty. If it is to be criticized and accepted in its entirety, art must involve discussion, challenge, and protest.”
Why renovate? How to renovate? How to make up for the “disappeared” five years?

The French Minister of Culture recently announced that after the Paris Olympics, the Pompidou Center will be closed from 2025 to 2030 for renovation, repairs and additions, claiming that this project is “necessary to ensure the future of this unusual building.” , will make it “live forever”.

The entire project will modernize the art center, add disabled-friendly facilities, and remove asbestos dust from the building. Due to the huge amount of work, in order to save the budget, the government chose to let it “retreat in isolation.” The renovation is expected to cost €260 million, while the arts center is still seeking €160 million in additional funding for cultural projects.

Laurent Le Bon, president of the Center Pompidou, told reporters that the renovation aims to reshape the Center Pompidou’s “original utopia” and respond to the cultural, social and environmental challenges of the coming years. The renovations helped reduce the center’s energy bills by 60%. “We are probably one of the most energy-intensive buildings in France, so this is pretty good news,” Le Bon said.

The highlight of this renovation is the construction of a new 1,500-square-meter terrace, which allows visitors to enjoy “one of the most beautiful views in western Paris.” An additional 20,000 square meters of space below Gallery Square will be expanded to serve as a disused bus parking lot to accommodate two cinemas and form part of a multidisciplinary exhibition and contemporary creation area.

On the first floor of the building, a “new generation center” will be set up on the north side, and a large restaurant will be opened on the south side, replacing exhibition halls three and four. The Library of Popular Knowledge will remain on the third floor; the Contemporary Art Gallery will remain on the fourth and fifth floors, but the infrastructure will be completely renovated and the Brancusi Art Studio will be added.

The closure of the venue does not mean that the collection will go silent. The 400,000 volumes of the Pompidou Center Public Library will be moved to a temporary location in the Bercy district of Paris, “Le Lumière”, while the collection of artworks will be exhibited throughout France and abroad. It is now known that the Louvre will provide exhibition space for part of the art center’s collection.

In the international exhibition plan, the Pompidou Center will build new museums in Brussels, Belgium and New Jersey, the United States, opening in 2025 and 2026 respectively; in addition, the Art Center will also develop a new contemporary art museum in Seoul, South Korea in 2025. The French government and the Royal Commission for AlUla in Saudi Arabia have also reached a cooperation to launch the $15 billion AlUla project to build the world’s largest “living museum.” In Shanghai, China, the five-year exhibition cooperation project between the West Bund Art Museum and the Pompidou Center is still in progress.

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