…that is not really the question because, without question, this is still a fascinating building and not to be missed. It would have been hard for us to miss it though as it was only a few minutes walk from Hotel Georgette and we found ourselves frequently passing by it either directly or catching glimpses of it from a block or two away, a teasing melange of tubes and colour inviting one to investigate it further.
The Pompidou is home to Europe’s largest collection of modern art, by which is meant, I think 20th and 21st century artists, including Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Kandinsky, Kahlo, Warhol and Pollock to mention but a few. It also houses a working library, cinema screens and areas devoted to art for children. Despite covering seven floors – including the basement level – only the top three are dedicated to displaying artworks along with part of level one for temporary exhibitions. It was in the latter that we saw the current show of an artist unknown to me until then, Wifredo Lam (1902 – 1982), a Cuban and contemporary of Picasso whose working life spanned time in Spain, Paris, Marseille and back and forth between Latin America and Cuba and Europe until his death. His work seemed to be comparable to that of Picasso in the early twentieth century and was quite impressive but what I think emerged is that despite there being over 300 of his works on show there just was not the extraordinary range of styles and media, the development so clear in the works of a true genius such as Picasso.
One of the reasons for visiting the Pompidou is the views that it affords. Paris is notably a “low-rise” city so six floors is plenty to put one above the rooftops. Interestingly, the views south towards Notre Dame and beyond are singularly uninteresting. It is the views north (and slightly west) to Montmartre and the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur that are most spectacular, especially in the light of a late afternoon in November. At first I was taking pictures through the grubby Perspex of the exterior tube walkways but then realised that there was an open walkway on level five. There were also excellent views down to the extensive cobbled forecourt that attracts so many people to just hang out and watch the various street performers or indeed to queue to get in.
The outdoor sculpture space was also on this open level and once again benefited from the gorgeous golden light of early evening illuminating the various pieces. It was worth going all the way to the top though, not just to reach the upper galleries but also to catch a glimpse of the sort of “nose-pressed-up-against-the-window-pane” type of restaurant to be found in a city such as Paris. This was Georges rooftop restaurant with a décor that made it hard to distinguish from a conceptual art installation.
We definitely worked very hard at the Pompidou, making our way through all the upper galleries until we could hardly stand. There was just so much stuffed into the space and most likely that was itself only a small part of the full collection. I have uploaded a gallery of just some of the pictures that particularly caught my eye. I have also added a gallery with a selection of interiors of the building for those who have not visited to gain an idea of the size and style of the spaces. Despite all the impressiveness of the place we both felt that there was something a little tired about the building. It had an air of being just a tad rundown. The toilets were a particular giveaway, exuding as they did the same feeling of over used and under maintained public toilets at older airports and motorway service areas, which was in such strange contrast to hanging spaces. In the same way the dirty Perspex of the exterior walkways and escalators made one long to slosh them over with a bucket of water. But how would they get cleaned? Is this something that the architects even considered when they came up with their crazy concept? Who knows?