The Centre Pompidou, home to Europe's largest collection of 20th century art, is one of the most-visited museums in the world. The building itself is not only home to this important modern art museum, but also contains a library, bookstore, a cinema, and a famous restaurant. This two-hour walk will focus on the museum as a site of contemporary pilgrimage and urban renewal, and on the related history of the Parisian avant-garde. It is ideal for those interested in modern art or anyone wishing to better understand 20th century art.
We will start at the Place George Pompidou, with a brief discussion of the notorious building, designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, in which the functioning of the museum is made visible, as if the structure had been turned inside-out. All the functioning parts of the building (elevators, water ducts, air pipes) are on the exterior of the building, and are color-coded: blue for air, green for water, red for elevators, yellow for electricity, gray for corridors and white for the building itself.
We continue on to the permanent collection, which is located on the top two floors. We will explore the cubist canvases of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, which launched all subsequent avant-garde movements, and move on to Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, and Piet Mondrian, all of whom reacted to and developed out of cubism. We will look at Francis Picabia as the primary exemplar of the Parisian strain of the international Dada movement, and at Dada's Parisian successor Surrealism, which is amply represented throughout the Centre Pompidou. We will return to Picasso, who was a fellow-follower of the surrealists in the 1930s.
The walk concludes with a brief examination of some postwar trends and a look at some of the more recent works, which will afford us the opportunity to question the avant-garde's contemporary legacy.