I ‘did’ Centre Pompidou on my last visit to Paris. It took me six trips to the city. Four times I ventured through museums like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, the Orangerie, Musée Montmartre. The fifth time I made it into the central hall. But for a shady reason I cannot remember now, I had to return a sixth time to make it happen.
Finally, finally I know what it’s like to be in those tubes, that make the building of Centre Pompidou so distinctive. I’ve been fascinated with it since art class in high school. Yet Centre Pompidou seemed like a mysterious art bastion where you could only go when you were somehow fabulous. Definitely after high school. When you would have expensive lipstick and confidence. And certainly only after knowing a thing or two about art. Contemporary art, brother.
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I’m ready. Lipstick, confidence, art degree; two of them unnecessary, but: check, check, check! I conquered Centre Pompidou. And I have absolutely no idea what I was afraid of.
There are many reasons to go, even if you know close to nothing about art (who doesn’t love a good sand castle??). If you are a seasoned museum trooper, there’s stuff to die for. Even if all you adore is Paris the city, you’re at the right address. I promise, you will have a good time. Be convinced by these 6 reasons to see Centre Pompidou!
Marvellous views over Paris, anyone??
You find Centre Pompidou smack in the middle of Paris. If you suffer intolerable cues at the Notre Dame again, this would be the next best spot for a view over Paris. And you can! Just get a ticket inside for the way up by elevator or the automatic stairs in those tubes, and of course you’ll go for the latter. You can even just get tickets without the entrance fee to the museum itself. Excellent if you don’t have much time.
The view is typically Parisian. The dark roofs, the Eiffel Tower, the square in front of the museum with its eternal clowns and street performers, and if you squint a little bit, the Sacre Coeur, it’s all there. The only thing is, you won’t have a view of 360 degrees. Picky?
Permanent exhibition: modern art for everyone
The 20th century explained, that’s the Centre Pompidou in a nutshell. Not nearly as intimidating as I once thought. It’s a vast collection, but logically ordered chronologically. Each room gives you clues about the time of creation of the paintings and sculptures shown, with some background information. Not in Louvre quantities: great.
And they’ve got it all. Each style, each name. Incredible. From cubism to Futurism, expressionism, De Stijl, Dadaism, surrealism, abstract art, and anything in between. From Kandinsky to Matisse, Boccioni, Picasso, Macke, Derain, Delaunay, Dufy, Modigliani, van Dongen, and Magritte. And more, way more. If you like art at all, you will have a good time here.
Get stirred not shaken: contemporary art
The collection of contemporary art is more like I expected. A cacophony of things challenges my senses. There is sound, there are installations, colors and surreal stuff on unexpected locations. Okay. Submerge.
The wide variation of things here asks for more creativity in describing it. My experience with contemporary collections is that I remember some pieces that I loved or hated most. The rest remains in a memory twilight zone as my brains cannot put the individual pieces in a logical order. That’s how my experience seems to be somewhat hysterical. Know what? I’ll just stick with the photos and let you draw your own conclusions. The only thing I would like to add it that I saw some amazing shit that I would have never come up with myself.
My favorites: the fronts of the three competing speaker brands Fender, Vox, and Marshall. The white corner painting, seamlessly connecting two walls (impossible to get on photo). The diaphragm window reacting to light, like the facade of the Arabic Center in Paris. And finally the wood sculpture that I don’t know how to describe better than ‘ingeniously twisted book shelf by Joseph Walsh. Good times.
In Centre Pompidou, there is always something to do. There’s a big chance things already start in the central hall. When I’m there, some guy with a pickaxe finishes up some gigantic sand castles. I don’t believe my eyes. He has gathered a crowd, many of which children. Loving that.
Original gifts and books, lots of books
This is where I found my big trophy: a pocket book that looks like a notebook, but holds the entire magical world of the Parisian street labyrinth and subway lines inside. Undercover tourism, hallelujah! Ok, ok if it weren’t for the camera dangling from my shoulder.
Other than that, the museum shop has a treasury of books, note books, posters, design items, postcards, and more. Let this knowledge work in favor of you.
On the top floor, Centre Pompidou treats you with temporary shows of various artists. This time it’s Wilfredo Lam. It’s a colorful bunch of large paintings and sculptures. In between pieces you learn about Lam from personal photos and articles, making it only the more interesting. Nice to have a more focused part in the whirlwind called Centre Pompidou.
Centre Pompidou practical info
Centre Pompidou is close to Les Halles in the center of Paris. Buy tickets in one of the machines in the great hall instead of the booth, that saves you lots of time. Go early to beat the cues and don’t be surprised when your bags are checked at the entrance, it’s policy.
Visit the website of the Centre Pompidou for more information.