Málaga Pompidou Center now a reality

Spanish branch of Paris modern art museum is scheduled to open in 2015 and will house 90 works

The glass cube in Málaga’s port area will be the symbol of the city’s future Pompidou Center.
The glass cube in Málaga’s port area will be the symbol of the city’s future Pompidou Center.García-Santos

The mystery surrounding the proposed Málaga branch of the Pompidou Center in Paris is gradually disappearing, as the local government clears up problems related to refurbishment work in the building set to house it.

Time is of the essence. According to a Spanish culture industry source, it is important for Málaga Mayor Francisco de la Torre, of the center right Popular Party, to have the museum ready before next May’s municipal elections. That said, it would be unfair to put politics at the center of last week’s presentation of the Málaga project in Paris. The real news is that the foremost collection of modern art in Europe is to get its own Spanish headquarters, featuring 90 works of great value. Among the artists who will be represented in the first phase of the project are Picasso, Antoni Tàpies, Max Ernst, Francis Bacon, René Magritte and Frida Kahlo.

The Málaga Pompidou Center will boast 6,000 square meters of exhibition space and, as well as its almost-permanent collection, will put on two or three temporary shows a year. French-educated De la Torre may have pushed the project hardest but the president of the Paris museum, Alain Seban, has also shown enormous interest. “It is a laboratory in which to experiment,” Seban explains. “The Pompidou wants to be a global museum and a provisional center like the one in Málaga enhances the value of our collection and widens its audience.” The parties have agreed a five-year contract that can be extended should the experiment work.

Picasso, Antoni Tàpies, Francis Bacon, René Magritte and Frida Kahlo are among the artists who will be represented

The center will have a budget of around €3 million a year (none of the figures offered were set in stone or laid down in writing), which will include the €1 million to €1.5 million that Málaga City Hall will pay the Pompidou as a fee. The local government will earn income through ticket sales, the cafeteria, the book store and other services.

The collection for the Málaga center has been selected by Brigitte Leal, curator of the Pompidou Center’s holdings, who has organized it into five sections: Metamoformosis will feature pieces inspired by 1930s Cubism, including those by Antonio Saura, Gérard Gasiorowski, Erró and Rineke Dijkstra; El cuerpo en pedazos (The body in pieces) will house creations by Picasso, Ferrán García Sevilla, Kader Attia and Julio Rodríguez; works by Peter Klasen, Carolee Schneemann and Annette Messager will appear in El cuerpo politico (The political body), while Frida Kahlo, Julio González, Kees van Dongen, Marc Chagall, Francis Bacon and Sophie Calle will be among the artists represented in Autorretratos (Self-portraits). Finally, pieces by Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder and Li Yongbin will make up the El hombre sin rostro section (The man without a face).

But neither will the Pompidou Málaga be a static museum in the vein of its Parisian counterpart. Alongside the paintings and sculptures will be architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’ models for the Pompidou Center in Paris, film screenings about the museum, a video installation by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist and, in general, the center will work to encourage culture in the city through workshops and other events.

The Pompidou wants to be global, and a center like Málaga widens our audience” Pompidou Center president Alain Seban

The Pompidou in Paris invests €1.5 million a year in traveling exhibitions. Opening the Málaga museum seems to be an obsession of Seban’s in order to provide himself with the global and multidisciplinary dimension that he is seeking. “Given that our budget is limited, we can’t do everything at once, but instead we have to do one thing after another,” he explains.

The Pompidou-Metz, opened four years ago, forms one part of this decentralization process. Unlike the Málaga project, it is a permanent museum – but this has not stopped Seban from putting a lot of hope in the success of the Spanish center. Málaga, as Mayor De la Torre explains, is the Spain’s third-most-important city for culture (after Madrid and Barcelona) and receives four million tourists a year. If all goes to plan, the experience could serve to create further centers in other countries.

According to De la Torre, Málaga City Hall now has the green light to continue refurbishment work on the building that is set to house the museum, which is known as El Cubo (The Cube). In just a few months, then, it seems Picasso will have an even greater presence in the city of his birth than he does now.

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