On Thursday the 26th, we visited the Pompidou Center. Our group reservation (they do this to make sure not too many people are in the museum at once, for a better experience) was later in the afternoon, so we enjoyed a Paris in the morning and then met up at the Center at 18h00. Ruth and I were having tea, and the clock at the café said we had half an hour to get to the museum when we left. But, inexplicable, a time warp occurred. We came to the Centre Pompidou an hour and a half after the group arrived. However, we just explained to the ticket people that we were with a group that was already inside, and they let us in!
Walking up to the Pompidou is an experience. You walk along the cobblestone streets and the 18th century apartment buildings with french doors and decorative iron balconies and, suddenly, you turn the corner of your little ally and modernity appears before you. The building is several stories high and made out metals, glass, plastics, and concrete. The tube exterior escalators make it look almost like a blown up version of the complex maze that children build for their gerbils to play in. In contrast to the elegant, decorative architecture all around, it’s ugly.
Once inside, the architecture is part of the art. It displays the modern art in a modern context that has a completely different feel from the rest of Paris. The Pompidou is not just an art museum, but a cultural center for film, visual arts, sculpture, painting, photography, music, architecture, and includes a massive public library devoted to art and culture. The architecture of the Pompidou is part of the museum as a display piece itself.
Because I arrived so late to the museum, it was almost empty, which was wonderful! Unlike at the Orsay, I didn’t have to listen to commentary from other people. I got to listen to myself in reaction to the art. Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky. As well as new art I was introduced to. The museum was well organized, by art movement and painter. There were also very comprehensive boards around the museum and guide pamphlets explaining the different movements and the influences of the painters. A little jingle went off that signaled thirty minutes left before we had to leave the museum. I must have looked like a crazy person, staring at art as I walked in order to get the most out of the time I had. If more people had been there, I would have run into them. I wasn’t looking at anything but art in those precious thirty minutes left! With ten minutes to spare, I got to the kinetic art. It’s meant to involve the on-looker. It moves as you move, it changes as you look at it, and you experience it. To the people behind the surveillance cameras, I now became nutso. I paced quickly back and forth in front of the sculptures and artwork, viewing it from multiple perspectives. I stood in one place and moved my head back and forth, up and down to view the light differently. I walked forward and backward to see the detail and the big picture. I must have looked absolutely off my rocker.
As they kicked us out, we didn’t get to see anything else in the museum, but got great views of the setting sun over the city as we headed down the now appropriate tubular staircases.