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France's modern art museum opens regional offshoot

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-10

The Pompidou Centre, France's national modern art museum located in Paris, is inaugurating a new version of itself in the eastern city of Metz this week. Seven years in the making, the 10,700 square metre building is already a Metz landmark.

REUTERS - The Pompidou Centre, the giant box of glass and tubes that holds France’s biggest modern art space, opens an offshoot in the eastern city of Metz this week, giving a lift to a struggling region and joining a global trend towards big museum “brands”.

The new centre in Metz will draw on the more than 65,000 works held by the Musee National d’Art Moderne at the main Pompidou Centre in Paris, one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in Europe.

The striking new complex has not aroused the initial outrage which greeted architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers when the futuristic spaceship they created for the original Pompidou Centre opened in 1977.

But it is a distinctive landmark nonetheless.

A tent-like structure of wooden lattices covered by a vast protective membrane, the building is designed to hold live performances and multimedia shows as well as the outsized installations beloved of contemporary art.

Seven years in the making, the 10,700 square metre building is already a dominant feature in Metz, an ancient fortress city which was fought over bitterly in the 19th and 20th centuries by France and Germany.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who designed the museum with French partner Jean de Gastines, was inspired by the form of a Chinese straw hat he bought in Paris more than 20 years ago to create a light and open exhibition space.

“We wanted the building to convey a sense of well-being, openness and multi-cultural mix in a building that has a direct, sensory relationship with its surroundings,” the two architects said in a design note.

Cultural brands

The new Pompidou Centre, which will be run in conjunction with local authorities in Metz, is in line with a longstanding official drive to try to balance the cultural dominance of Paris with more provincial centres.

It will open with an exhibition called Masterpieces? drawing on the Pompidou Centre’s huge collection of 20th century works and showing artists from Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse to Fernand Leger and Constantin Brancusi.

For Metz, an unglamorous city in a region long associated with army garrisons and decaying heavy industry, local authorities are counting on the 70 million euro ($93.92 million) project to bring in a flux of new visitors.

“Pompidou is going to work fantastically and it will radically change the image of Metz in France, in Europe and even in the world,” said Jean-Marie Rausch, the former Metz mayor who backed the project told the local Republicain Lorrain daily.

Due to be inaugurated on Tuesday by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Metz museum is the now vastly popular Pompidou Centre’s first regional affiliate and its management insists it will be an independent institution.

It joins the offspring of other cultural institutions which have capitalised on their fame to spread beyond their original homes and create generic “brands” of their own.

Outside France, New York’s Guggenheim or the four Tate museums in Britain have already set a pattern and Metz will be hoping to repeat the Spanish industrial city of Bilbao’s success with the spectacular Guggenheim offshoot opened in 1997.

Closer to home, the Louvre museum and the Sorbonne university have both lent their names to subsidiary units in the Gulf state of Abu Dhabi and the Louvre is preparing to open another branch in the northern French city of Lens in 2012.


Date created : 2010-05-10