Pompidou Centre looks to expand overseas

1st February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 1, 2006 (AFP) - From the heights of the twisted external blue, red and green pipes which lace its futuristic glass facade, the bosses of the Pompidou Centre in Paris are eyeing new horizons to the East.

PARIS, Feb 1, 2006 (AFP) - From the heights of the twisted external blue, red and green pipes which lace its futuristic glass facade, the bosses of the Pompidou Centre in Paris are eyeing new horizons to the East.

Almost three decades after the centre opened causing an immediate furore thanks to its innovative, modern design, the Pompidou Centre is now looking to Asia for its first expansion overseas.

In collaboration with other partners, the Pompidou is taking part in government-run competitions in Hong Kong and Singapore to build new museums of modern art.

And it is crossing its fingers that by its 30th anniversary in 2007, it will have something to celebrate.

President of the centre, Bruno Racine, said Asia held an important place in the future vision of the Pompidou, which now attracts 5.3 million visitors a year, 64 percent of whom are under 35-years-old.

"On this continent, new economic powers are establishing themselves, new artistic scenes are distinguished by their vitality, the market for art is rapidly growing," Racine told a press conference on Tuesday. "We have to be present on this emerging scene."

So the centre jumped at the chance when it was asked by US architect Daniel Libeskind to join a bid to develop a Singapore site into a complex with a contemporary art museum, hotel, casino, concert hall and conference space.

Competition is tough among about a dozen candidates, and the final tenders for the 15-hectare complex at Marina Bay are due to be submitted by the end of March with the Singapore government set to announce the winner a few months later.

While the Pompidou project remains under wraps, Racine hinted that it could be as modern in its concept as the Pompidou centre, designed by British architect Richard Rogers and Italy's Renzo Piano, was in its day.

The concept was not "really about heritage, but more focused on creation today and tomorrow," he said.

Indeed Libeskind has already attracted a reputation for unusual "defragmented" buildings such as the stainless-steel clad Imperial War Museum North in the British city of Manchester, and the zinc-panelled Jewish Museum in Berlin.

The Singapore project groups the Pompidou with Singapore Integrated Resorts, which also includes the US hotel-casino group Harrah's Entertainment and Singapore developer Keppel Land.

But the Pompidou Centre, named after the late French president Georges Pompidou, is also awaiting the outcome of a similar competition to develop and operate a museum in Hong Kong to build on reclaimed land in the West Kowloon Cultural District.

Initially the Pompidou found itself pitted against the Guggenheim Foundation, but local property giants Sun Hung Kai and Cheung Kong then decided to join forces and set up one consortium known as Dynamic Star International.

Racine confirmed that following the fusion of the two Hong Kong property giants the Pompidou had decided to work with the Guggenheim on the project, set to be designed by British architect Norman Foster and open its doors in 2012.

The West Kowloon proposal has sparked controversy among planners and architects who argue it will do little to nurture local talent and will be too far from the rest of the city to be economically viable.

But the Pompidou, which sees part of its role as helping a new museum to acquire its own collection, is no stranger to scandal.

When it opened in 1977 with the aim of bringing culture to the man in the street and housing Europe's most important collection of modern art, its modernist design with its internal pipe workings draped over its facade caused an uproar.

Love it or hate it, the building that towers incongruously above the old 19th-century buildings of the Beaubourg district of Paris cannot be ignored.

It houses the French National Museum of Modern Art, a public library, as well as vast exhibition spaces, and now welcomes an average of 18,000 visitors a day.

But the Pompidou's new horizons do not just extend to Singapore and Hong Kong. Racine confirmed the centre was developing tentative contacts for projects in Beijing and Shanghai, adding that in a world of globalisation the Pompidou must avoid the trap of provincialism.

"The world of tomorrow will be multi-polar and our voice has to have its place," said Racine.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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