Paris Diary - Centre Pompidou

Photo by © Hind Mezaina

Photo by © Hind Mezaina


I spent a lot of hours at Centre Pompidou, visiting the five exhibitions listed below. There was was a lot to see and absorb.

I've included the exhibition trailer, don't worry if you don't understand French, the work featured should give you a sense of what the exhibition is like (click on each title to get to the dedicated exhibition page on Centre Pompidou's website). 

A History. Art, architecture, design from the 1980s until today.(on till 7th March 2016)

An extensive exhibition featuring almost 400 works and objects by nearly 200 artists, architects and designers including paintings, sculptures, installations, videos, films, drawings, photographs, architecture and design. The exhibition looks at the interpretation of art in relation to the changes in the last 30 years. 

1989 marked a break with the past and the start of a new era. The fall of the Berlin Wall toppled divisions in the world of European art, while the events of Tiananmen Square focused attention on a new China. In the eyes of West, new artistic territories emerged, while artists burst upon the international scene and contemporary art biennials sprang up all over the world.

The new presentation of the Centre Pompidou contemporary collections focuses particularly on this altered geography, notably the former Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon and various Middle Eastern countries, India, Africa and Latin America. 

The 1990s saw the emergence of the artist as producer, historian, archivist or documentarist, in a reaction to contemporary socio-political upheavals. The relationship with the body has also led to numerous visual inventions, while many artists see themselves as narrators or autobiographers, creating fictions based on their private lives.

Reality itself and everyday objects inspire numerous sculptures and installations, instilling a new poetry into the ordinary, and creating new links between the public and private spheres, themselves subjected to profound sociological upheavals.

Jacques-André Boiffard (on till 2nd February 2015)

The Centre Pompidou opened new area dedicated to photography. It will include three exhibitions dedicated to historic or contemporary photography each year, from Centre Pompidou's collection of 40,000 photographs. The first exhibition was devoted to the work of Jacques-André Boiffard, the great surrealist photographer. 

For the opening of its new photography gallery, the Centre Pompidou is exhibiting, for the first time, seventy photographs by Jacques-André Boiffard: the last great Surrealist photographer who has never yet featured in a museum retrospective.

Lasting only a short decade, Boiffard’s career as a photographer was dazzling, to say the least. And though limited in terms of time and quantity, his photographic works were some of the most authentically Surrealist of his time. Swelled by a number of vintage prints still in private hands, this unprecedented exhibition features Boiffard’s pictures for André Breton and Georges Bataille, his commissioned works and his more experimental pieces.

Although the pictures Boiffard published in Nadja and Documents have received much critical acclaim over the past few years, particularly in the UK and the US, his work is still too little-known. In 2011, the acquisition of Christian Bouqueret’s photograph collection added 50 prints to the Centre Pompidou collection, which already contained 26 original prints by Boiffard. It is now the largest institutional collection of his photographs. 

Marcel Duchamp(on till 5th January 2015)

Marcel Duchamp has often been seen as a constantly provocative iconoclast who killed painting and challenged the very nature of art. Yet he was first of all a painter, and it is in his painting that we can see the complexity and extreme consistency of his work from the very beginning.

Through around 100 works brought together for the first time, the exhibition takes us from the early 1910s, when Duchamp thought of himself as a painter, to 1923, the year he stopped working on his great work – one of the century's most impenetrable and complex: La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même ("The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even"), also known as Le Grand Verre ("The Large Glass").

The exhibition sheds light on issues in the artist's thoughts about painting, and his sources – he drew on science, pictures, techniques and books alike. It thus illustrates the artist's interest in his own times and the changes taking place not only in art, but also in literature and the optical, mechanical, physical and occult sciences.

Covering a huge range (humorous drawings, treatises on perspective, the films of Georges Méliès, the paintings of Cranach the Elder and Manet, Impressionism and Cubism), the exhibition takes us on a step-by-step journey through the development of the Grand Verre, which the artist left, as he put it, "definitively unfinished". 

Latifa Echakhch(on till 26th January 2015)

What the artist presents here is a landscape that we see straightaway and embrace in a single glance. Then, as we go through it, we discover what it consists of: groups of clouds; objects immersed in Indian ink; hanging wires that might evoke rain; a floor in which the elements are reflected. The clouds are placed on the ground, almost at the same level as the objects. Nothing rises. The play on the reflections of the shining parquet floor increases the sensation of confusion between high and low, earth and sky.

The landscape is seen from two different angles. When we arrive, the clouds are black; when we leave, they are blue. For the artist, the change of viewpoint leads to a change in temporality. Our arrival and our wanderings among the black clouds and objects can be seen as a confrontation with the past, while the return journey among the blue clouds leads us towards futures we can invent and project.

Meanwhile, the objects belong to the register of history and the endless number of narratives that each visitor can read into this scene. Sought out in second-hand shops or brought back from travels, these objects are linked with the artist's memories and her childhood as a small girl spent by Lake Bourget after leaving Morocco in 1978 when she was three. They include a suitcase (evoking uneasy emigration), the boxes of records left by her father in Morocco, now distorted by the heat, and the bottle of perfume – "L’Air du Temps" by Nina Ricci – filled with black ink, which gives the exhibition its subtitle. 

Frank Gehry (on till 26th January 2015)

The first major retrospective of Frank Gehry's work, it includes 225 drawings and 67 models with supporting documentation. 

The design of the exhibition is organised around two key themes: urbanism and the development of new systems of digital design and fabrication.

The exhibition opens at a time when Frank Gehry has been very active in France. After building the American Center in Paris in the 1990s, he has returned in force with two major projects: a start was made on the Fondation Luma at Arles only a few months ago, while the end of October will see the opening of his most recent building, the masterly Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

The exhibition includes six sections:

Section 1 - Elementarisation/Segmentation, 1965 - 1980     

Section 2 - Composition/Assembly, 1980-1990

Section 3 - Fusion/Interaction, 1990-2000     

Section 4 - Tension/Conflict, 1990-2000     

Section 5 - Continuity/Flow, 2000-2010     

Section 6 - Singularity/Unity, 2010-2015