In 1969 French President Georges Pompidou launched the idea of creating a new cultural institution in Paris dedicated to modern art.
In 1971 a competition for this new cultural center attracted 650 entries. The winning project, submitted by the architects Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini broke with architectural conventions by moving functional elements such as escalators, water pipes and air conditioning to the outside of the building, freeing interior space for the display of art works. The pipes and ducts are all color-coded: blue for air, green for water, red for elevators, yellow for electricity, gray for corridors and white for the building itself.
The construction of the glass and metal building in the centrally located Beaubourg neighborhood ran into a lot of opposition from people who disliked the idea of an ‘oil refinery’ in a historic district. But when the museum opened in December 1977, it became an instant success: originally designed to accommodate some 5,000 visitors per day, the Centre Pompidou has been welcoming over 25,000 visitors per day, making it one of the most visited attractions in Paris.
More Than a Museum
The Centre Pompidou is home to one of the world’s most important museums of modern art, the MNAM, but it also contains a very popular library, a bookshop, a movie theater and a panoramic terrace.
The Public Information Library or BPI boasts a collection of 450,000 books, 2,600 magazines and many new media items.
The library occupies the first three floors of the building, while the museum’s permanent collection is located on floors 4 and 5. The first and top floor are used for large expositions. The museum has one of the most important collections of modern art. Its more than 59,000 works cover a broad spectrum of twentieth-century arts.
The 4th floor contains works from 1905 to 1965 and covers art movements such as fauvism, abstract art, surrealism and cubist art. Some of the featured artists include Matisse, Kadinsky, Miró and Picasso.
The 5th floor covers the period after 1965, including the pop-art movement and figurative art.
The square in front of the Centre Pompidou, the ‘Place Georges Pompidou’ or ‘Place Beaubourg’, is very popular. The large crowds are animated by mimes, street portraitists and entertainers.
If you want to see some modern art without going into the museum, just go to the right of the square, to the place Igor Stravinsky, where you’ll find the most famous modern fountain in Paris. The fountain has several kinetic sculptures, designed by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely.
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