France and Georges Pompidou helped me find a way to love modern art
I’ve never been a huge fan of modern art. It’s okay, but I don’t feel the need to rush out and see it. That all changed when I visited the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.
Located in the Centre Georges Pompidou, it is Europe’s largest museum for modern art and it absolutely blew me away.
Room after room, piece after piece, I finally found a true love for modern art.
In reality, the love affair began when we were still waiting in the queue to go in. The building, which was commissioned by Georges Pompidou when he was president of France from 1969 to 1974, has its innards on the outers.
Yeah, you read right. The centre has been built inside out. The plumbing, escalators, ducting, pipes, air vents, stairs and all the other normal guts of a building are on the outside.
That seems to work because there’s plenty of amazing stuff reserved for the inside. In addition to all the modern artworks, the 7-storey structure houses a public information library and a centre for music and acoustic research.
Anyway, we had plenty of time to admire the exterior. We chose to go on the first Sunday of the month when admission is free. The queue was long, but there were plenty of buskers (including a woman playing the didgeridoo) and ice cream sellers to help pass the time.
But in the end, we didn’t wait all that long. The only hold-up was to make sure everyone passed through the airport-style metal detector, where I think my underwire bra set off the alarm. Oops, sorry, too much information.
And then we were let lose to travel up the escalators to the roof to see the great views of the Eiffel Tower (in one direction) and Sacred Heart (Sacré-Coeur) Basilica of Montmartre (in another).
Then it was back to levels 4 and 5 where the modern artworks awaited.
One of the most riveting pieces was a video and collection of stills by Jean-Paul Goude. Singer Grace Jones features in these, and I have to admit that I watched the video through twice. Absolutely spellbinding. So many images, so many themes, so much to look at.
But there are so many other noteworthy pieces. I loved an unknown-to-me piece by Picasso, especially because a mum lifted up both her sons to show the piece to them.
And then there were the wooden chairs at the round table, wrapped globes, hanging glass and…and…and!
Just go if you get to Paris. You can bet I’ll go again when I return.
A bit about the Centre Georges Pompidou
First an embarrassing confession! I’ve been to Paris four times since the Pompidou Centre opened in 1977, and this is the first time I’ve ever gone inside. So I’m giving myself a huge kick up the bum for being so remiss.
Three main architects—Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini of Italy, and Richard Rogers of Britain—designed the centre. They won a competition that was, for the first time ever, open to international architects.
Early reaction to the structure was negative. National Geographic called it ‘love at second sight’ and an Italian newspaper said Paris had created ‘its own monster’.
Today’s opinions are much kinder and more positive. That’s my opinion, but plenty more agree. When it was built, the centre expected to have 8000 visitors a day. In its first two decades, it had 145 million visitors, more than five times the predicted number.
And attendance continues to be on the increase.
So go if you ever get to Paris. Please go! And you’ll be surprised to know that it doesn’t seem crowded.