The Centre Georges-Pompidou is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. How does the utopia of its origins still inhabit this incredible cultural machine today? A look back at four decades of success.
It is home to one of the world’s largest museums of modern art, at the head of a major collection of works from 1900 to the present day, the Institute for Research and Acoustic/Music Coordination (Ircam), founded by Pierre Boulez, a gigantic public library (the BPI), temporary exhibition galleries, theatres and cinemas. Familiarly known as “Beaubourg”, the liner gained a foothold in the Les Halles district under the impetus of President Pompidou, who dreamed of a place in Paris “that would be both a museum and a centre of creation, where the plastic arts would rub shoulders with music, cinema, books and audiovisual research”. Before its inauguration in 1977, the aesthetics of the architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers sparked an epic controversy. But once the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou was launched, its success continued unabated. A laboratory for sensory experiences (sound, visual, audiovisual), mixing artistic practices (painting, sculpture with the Brancusi collection, graphics, design, poetry, dance…) and multiple audiences, this flagship of French cultural institutions offers the opportunity to discover an avant-garde in perpetual turmoil.
Giving the floor to artists (Annette Messager, Giuseppe Penone, Daniel Buren…) as well as to those who made or are making the institution (Claude Mollard, its first secretary general, Serge Lasvignes, its current president, Frank Madlener, the director of Ircam…), this film revisits four decades of inventiveness. At a time when the art market is booming, international museums are competing fiercely and public funding is dwindling, it invites us to reflect on a unique model which, like the Louvre, is now bringing its “brand” to life outside Paris, with the Centre Pompidou-Metz, and abroad, in Málaga, Shanghai and Brussels.