Centre Georges Pompidou is one of the great attractions in Paris. It is a real cultural center, attracting everybody for its scale, its architecture (still modern, progressive and exciting to this day), its public spaces in front that are always full of performing artists and crowds of onlookers, and most of all, for its exciting cultural programmes of all kinds.
The Centre Georges Pompidou houses the National Museum of Modern Art with an impressive collection of 20th century art. It is also devoted to all forms of modern and contemporary works, including literature, theatre, film and music. It's the fifth most visited Paris attraction with 3.8 million visitors a year.
History of the Centre Pompidou
This popular Paris centre was the idea of President Georges Pompidou, who first envisioned a cultural center focused entirely on all modern creations in 1969. The building was designed by British architect Richard Rogers and Italian architects Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini, and is probably one of the most distinct architectural designs in the world. It opened on January 31 1977 with revolutionary ideas, design and technical specifications, though the idea of moving floors up or down internally to create different-sized spaces was never realised.
It was too expensive to do and too disrupting for the building.
The first directors of the museum put on some stunning shows: Paris – New York, Paris – Berlin, Paris – Moscow, Paris – Paris, Vienna: Birth of a Century and more. It was an exciting time, and led to more acquisitions.
In 1992 the Centre expanded to take in live performance, film, lectures and debates. It also took over the Centre of Industrial Design, adding an architecture and design collection of work. It closed for 3 years between 1997 and 2000 for renovation and additions.
The National Museum of Modern Art-Centre de Création Industrielle
The museum holds over 100,000 works from 1905 to today. From the original collections taken from the Musée de Luxembourg and the Jeu de Paume, the acquisitions policy expanded to take in major artists who were not in the original collections like Giorgio de Chirico, René Magritte, Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock, as well as Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Lucia Fontana and Yves Klein.
Photograph Collection. The Centre Pompidou also houses Europe’s largest collections of photographs consisting of 40,000 prints and 60,000 negatives from both major historic collections and from individuals. This is the place to see May Ray, Brassaï, Brancusi and New vision and Surrealist artists. The collection is in the Galerie de Photographies.
The Design Collection is fairly comprehensive, taking in modern pieces from France, Italy and Scandinavia and names like Elieen Gray, Ettore Sottsass Jr, Philippe Starck and Vincent Perrottet. There are both one-off prototypes and exceptional pieces you won’t see elsewhere.
The Cinema Collection began in 1976 with a programme called A history of the cinema. The idea was to buy 100 experimental films. From this starting point it’s grown and now has 1,300 works by visual artists and film directors, with the emphasis on work at the edge of the cinema. So it covers artists’ films, film installations, video and HD works.
The New Media Collection is the largest in the world. New media works run from multimedia installations to CR-ROMs and websites from 1963 to today with works by the likes of Doug Aitken and Mona Hatoum.
Around 20,00 drawings and prints make up The Graphic Collection of works on paper. Again, the collection expanded from the original works to include those by Victor Brauner, Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Wassily Kandinsky, Matisse, Joan Miró and others. The policy of being allowed to accept acquisitions in lieu of inheritance tax has brought works by the likes of Alexander Calder, Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
There are always a number of exhibitions on, covering all the artistic disciplines.
Visiting the Centre Pompidou
Open: Daily except Tuesday 11am-10pm (exhibitions close at 9pm); Thursday to 11pm only for exhibitions on level 6
Admission: Museum and exhibitions ticket includes all exhibitions, museum and the View of Paris. Adult €14, reduced €11
View of Paris ticket (no admission to the museum or exhibitions) €3
Free on the first Sunday of every month
Free with the Paris Museum Pass which is valid for 60 museums and monuments. 2 days €42; 4 days €56; 6 days €69
Tours of the collections and exhibitions are available.
There are three bookshops in Centre Pompidou. You can access the book store on level zero, as well as the design boutique on the mezzanine which has excellent and unusual items, without paying for tickets to the center.
Eating at the Centre Pompidou
Restaurant Georges on level 6 is the more formal restaurant. Good food, good cocktails (and wine and beer) and spectacular views. Open daily noon-2pm.
Mezzanine Café – Snack Bar
On level 1, this is for light snacks and is open daily except Tuesdays from 11am-9pm.