One of the interesting things about being an expat, living in another country, is that one thing leads to another. Now, what you might say, do I mean by that? Well, the last blog post was about the Centre Pompidou. And I would suggest that a tourist might say, “Oh, now I’ve been there, and that’s that. Next!” But somebody who lives in Paris, will take a second look or a third. So, I’d like to do that with you with this post.
The Centre Pompidou is located in the 4th arrondissement. It’s in the section of Paris called le Beaubourg, a jeu de mot, or a play on words, meaning beautiful village, because this area was built on one of the dumps in the 12th C associated with the nearby famed market called Les Halles. The Centre Pompidou was designed by architects Rogers and Piano, and the innards of the building, such as plumbing and air circulation, are mounted on the outside.
EN PLUS (More)
As I was zooming around Google to present some info about the Centre Pompidou, I read that it houses a large, national library. Here’s what the Tourist Office of Paris says, “The Bibliothèque Publique d’Information (or BPI) is a library inside the Centre Pompidou, in the heart of Paris. Like all libraries, it has reading spaces, encyclopaedic collections, etc, but it also hosts cultural activities (conferences, debates, cinema screenings of documentaries … ).” One little thing about this big library: you can’t check anything out. So next time I go, I’ll have to seek it out. In addition, there is a library called the Kandinsky Library, which has restricted access and is a nerd haven for researchers since it houses printed material pertaining to modern artists. You must have appropriate credentials to get in there. You know who you are! The emphasis is on modern and contemporary artists with rotating exhibits and the permanent collection.
These folks have their own spaces there as well. Not to mention two bookstores, a café, and the spectacular views. You can just go up and up and then look around at familiar Parisian landmarks. In short, the Centre Pompidou is really a cultural center, more than “just” a museum.
Here is one such view.
EN PLUS PLUS (Still More)
We’ve got the Stravinsky Fountain, a whimsical fountain based on the works of the composer Igor Stravinsky (1882 -1971), a Russian composer whose most famous work is “Rites of Spring.”
We’ve also got the Atelier or Workshop of the sculptor Brancusi, also associated with the Centre Pompidou. It was reassembled close by and people can visit it. It is a thrill to be inside the place where the artist actually worked.
Reader: Who is Brancusi again?
Me: Our Valet, M Wikipedia, does not organize our clothes for us, but rather our information. Constantin Brâncuși (Romanian: [konstanˈtin brɨŋˈkuʃʲ] (listen); February 19, 1876 – March 16, 1957) was a Romanian sculptor, painter and photographer who made his career in France. Considered one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th-century and a pioneer of modernism, Brâncuși is called the patriarch of modern sculpture. As a child, he displayed an aptitude for carving wooden farm tools. (For some reason, “farm tools” is a live link. Enjoy!)
Here’s more about Brancusi.
As an expat living in Paris, a person develops a relationship with these various landmarks.
The first exhibit I ever went to at the Centre de Pompidou featured the Japanese architect Tadao Ando (b.1941). My daughter invited me. But may I say I was a little overwhelmed by the Centre Pompidou?
Reader: How big is the place?
Me: Five acres.
FUN FACTS: The Pompidou measures 1,112,000 square feet. The building has 7 above-ground floors of steel and glass, as well as 3 underground floors that house the equipment rooms and service areas. There is a distance of 7 meters (23 feet) between each floor.
Reader: Did Paris take to this building?
Me: When it opened in 1977, people criticized the Pompidou Center because it was not part of the architectural style of this quarter in the fourth arrondissement. Its dimensions were too huge for the center of Paris: its length is 166 m, width – 60 m, and height – 42 m. (For Brits and Americans, think roughly a yard = a meter.)
BACK TO TADAO ANDO
And Tadao Ando? This was not a name I knew. Here is what Mr. Google says, “Tadao Ando is a Japanese autodidact architect whose approach to architecture and landscape was categorized by architectural historian Francesco Dal Co as ‘critical regionalism’. He is the winner of the 1995 Pritzker Prize.” Despite the overwhelming building, accompanied by my daughter, gamely I went up the many escalators to the top floor and there I was greeted by the most perfect exhibition I’d ever seen: just the right combination of video, photos, PowerPoint, biography and hagiography. This is the most striking design of a church I could ever imagine. It’s called in English, The Church of the Light, located in Ibaraki, Osaka. This is what we are told: “The Church of the Light embraces Ando’s philosophical framework between nature and architecture through the way in which light can define and create new spatial perceptions equally, if not more so, as that of his concrete structures.” Here’s an image.
More recently, on this past trip I was more familiar with the ways of the escalators and up I went, as if the building were not an old friend exactly, but an acquaintance I was renewing—this time to see a French sculptor, Germaine Richier (1902 – 1959). Here’s a controversial sculpture. Christ here melds with the cross. It was deemed scandalous because it’s ugly, so it was said.
Given that she was a highly influential sculptor and a woman, I thought I’d include two videos about Germaine Richier. These disprove the old saw about the male art world being enshrined.
Here’s a link to a very short video
And here’s a ten minute video that reveals that she was one of the most influential sculptors in the 20th century.
Now that we are all hepped up to visit the Beaubourg, or Centre Pompidou, we will be waiting, waiting for years! Does this sound familiar, all this waiting? The Centre Pompidou will close for four years, starting in 2023 through 2026, for renovation. How can it be that such a vibrant place will close for such a long time? Nobody splashing in the fountains, nobody chatting up young girls, nobody selecting material from the library, viewing exhibits, neither the temporary nor the permanent collection. No oohs and aahs from the observation deck way up top. What can we do?
In the opening words of Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, we learn the answer from Estragon, one of the vagabonds. He says, quite rightly, rien à faire. Nothing can be done.