LATIN AMERICA

After Malaga and Brussels, Pompidou Center mulls branch in Colombia

Latin America “among our perspectives for the future,” says institution’s head Serge Lasvignes

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the Pompidou Center is looking to build on its global brand as a “cultural center that, at the same time, brings together a museum and a place of creation where the plastic arts mix with music, cinema and books,” to use French former Prime Minister and President Georges Pompidou’s description of the Paris-based institution.

An aerial view of the Pompidou Center from 2010.
An aerial view of the Pompidou Center from 2010.BORIS HORVAT / AFP

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In an interview with EL PAÍS, Serge Lasvignes, the head of the Pompidou Center, says that it is to open in Brussels in 2018, occupying some 35,000 square meters of an art deco former garage and that talks are advancing over a branch in Shanghai.

Among the host countries being considered for a third overseas presence is Colombia, says Lasvignes, adding that Latin America “is among our perspectives for the future.”

Artists have contributed to pacifying social life in Colombia Serge Lasvignes, head of the Pompidou Center

“I am very interested in Colombia. It is a promising country with a lot of resources, where artist collectives have contributed to pacifying social life,” he says, adding that plans for Latin America are still in the preliminary stage.

Lasvignes says he is not ruling out extending the life of the Malaga branch of the Pompidou Center, opened in 2015 in a glass cube with 6,300 square meters of exhibition space, and whose agreement is due to expire in 2020.

The Pompidou Center will be celebrating its 40th birthday with 40 shows throughout France, from Marseilles to Lille, and from Bordeaux to Strasbourg, lending works from its more than 200,000 pieces, which make it the largest collection of modern art in Europe.

“Democratizing art is a mobilizing utopia: it never ends and requires constant willpower,” he says, adding that he wants to attract as diverse a range of visitors as possible. “When I look at my visitors, I see that the upper strata of society continue to be over-represented. We still have a lot to do,” he admits.

The head of the Pompidou Center, Serge Lasvignes, at the site of the Brussels branch.
The head of the Pompidou Center, Serge Lasvignes, at the site of the Brussels branch.EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

At the back entrance of the Pompidou, young people of all ages, classes and colors wait in a long line to use the library, which is one of the most popular in Europe, with some 1.2 million visitors a year. Lasvignes says he wants to direct that line into the center’s galleries. He intends to create a single-entry ticket for the whole center. Next year, repair and refurbishment work will begin, but shouldn’t require any major closures.

The Pompidou celebrates its 40th anniversary in fine fettle. In 2016, while most museums in the French capital saw visitor numbers fall amid fears of terrorist attacks, some 3.3 million people took in the center, a 9% increase on the previous year, and up 30% on a decade ago. But unlike the Louvre, a gallery he says people “visit once and that’s it,” the Pompidou has established itself as a cultural center that can be revisited time and again.

“Some 70% of our visitors have already been here at least once in the same year,” he explains.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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